By Barney Blakeney
I recently took to Facebook. Mind you, I’m computer illiterate, but I figured Facebook gives me another avenue to do some work. It’s all about the work, ya’ll. Forty years ago, I thought I’d get rich at this writing thing, but that ain’t gonna happen. I’m blessed to be doing something I enjoy. Fortunately this gig pays the bills and I’m having fun, so I’m leaving well enough alone.
The other day somebody posted a story I wrote on Facebook. The paper runs an online edition, but this went to Facebook on someone else’s page. I’ve got no problem with that. Can’t stop it anyway. After all, that’s why I went on Facebook in the first place – for the exposure.
But Facebook is a trip! You might see anything there. One lady was talking about what she had in her refrigerator and the choices it presented on her day off. President Donald Trump (nobody wants to call him that, but they did the same thing to President Barack Obama) has demonstrated any fool can go on Facebook and say anything. Facebook is a dangerous space because you don’t have to confirm anything. More often than not, social media does more harm than good. But as the old folks used to say, you have to consider the source.
So I’m reading this guy’s response to my story on Facebook and he takes me to task because of the references to race I used in the story. He said the racial stuff was unnecessary and really, quite ridiculous. As a trained professional, I might have agreed with him. My training stresses objectivity. But when I started this gig my first editor, Jim French, gave me a piece of advice I’ve never forgotten. He said that a Black reporter has an obligation that goes beyond merely reporting the news. A Black reporter also has the obligation of advocating for the Black community.
A lot of folks want to delude themselves – and others – into thinking we live in a post racial America. It ain’t so. Just because America elected a Black president doesn’t mean it’s moved past racism. America is just as racist today as it ever has been. And those who want to deny that racism want to deny that reality. Racism is a problem. And you can’t fix a problem until you admit there is a problem.
That guy on Facebook thought I probably should have written my story minus the racial references. Trust me brother, I’d love nothing better than to write stories that don’t have a focus on race. But in the October 11 edition of The Chronicle financial writer Charlene Crowell reported although the income of Blacks in America has increased significantly, their denial rate for home mortgage loans is higher than any other ethnic group, and double the denial rate of whites.
Homeownership is the American dream. For too many Blacks that’s a dream denied for no other reason than they are Black. As Crowell reported, it ain’t about the money because the money is there.
In that same edition, former South Carolina State University Trustee Board Chair William Small addressed the disparities perpetuated between SCSU and predominantly white universities in the state. Chronic underfunding and under-resourcing has crippled SCSU as financial aid to the University of South Carolina and Clemson have enabled those schools to flourish. Dr. Small says it better than I ever can, but I cringe at the prospect of SCSU’s future. Despite producing graduates who have gone throughout the world as great leaders, SCSU, as we know it, will die on the vine. And only because it’s a Black school!
The impact of race is so pervasive in our society some of us don’t even know it’s there. This thing about football quarterback Colin Kaepernick is all about race. Okay we all understand the conversation has gotten twisted – what started as a protest of racial injustice got twisted into a conversation about the American flag and national anthem. We all recognize the old ‘throw ‘em off the trail trick’. But why are we going for it?
That brother took a serious hit when he didn’t have to. Like his much darker colleagues, Kaepernick could have just been cool, keep his mouth shut and take the money. Kaepernick is biracial – he can pass! He didn’t need to make a statement about racism. But he took a position, not just a knee. And we won’t support him. Do we really love football that much? Do we love football more than we love ourselves? I’ve never been much of a sports fan anyway, so missing some football games doesn’t bother me. But I ain’t doing no NFL football til Kaepernick gets hired. I won’t hold out too long after that. Obtaining racial justice is too big a project. That’s going to take more time and effort.
In that respect, I’m reminded of a comment made by presidential advisor Steve Bannon who says the actions ultra conservative Republicans take today will build the Republican Party he hopes will exist 20-30 years from now. That, to me, is another example of how racism in America is a long term manipulated dynamic. Clay Middleton recently told me you plant trees today so you can have shade tomorrow. Black folks need to think like Steve Bannon.
So, my Facebook brother, don’t expect that I’ll discontinue my editorial focus on race in my stories. Not when I see young men in Charlottesville, Va. marching into the night with torches to light the way into a future of dark racism. Me and Kap – we ain’t gon change til America changes.