By Barney Blakeney
This thing about racial intolerance long has been out of hand, but it’s become scary!
As a Black man in America I learned a long time ago that this country is run by racists. It was founded by racists, developed by racists and is perpetuated by racists. I’m sorry, but there just ain’t no nice way to say it – America is a racist society. And to those who say if I don’t like it I should leave it – I say go to hell! Me and my people have just as much stake in this country as anyone else. And besides, anywhere I go on this planet America’s racism is there.
It seems since Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States, some racist folks feel absolutely intolerant of black folks. I saw something the other day written by a close friend whose son was accosted by an employee at a hotel where they were staying as he was sat in the lobby. This young man was a registered guest at the hotel with an active room key and some hotel employee asked what he was doing there. The employee insisted on proof he was a guest and even after being provided indisputable proof of his status, my friend’s son still was dragged through additional interrogation.
I heard a term, “living while black’, used recently. Black folks are subjected to vicious acts of racism while doing everyday stuff in life. The perpetrators of such acts use subterfuge to hide their motives, but the racism often is so blatant and the motives so unmistakable I wonder why cops, when called to address the bullcrap, don’t just shut it down. I understand cops have to respond to calls for assistance, but they don’t have to accommodate obvious racism. But then, a lot of cops also are racists. That would be acceptable if the cops just did their jobs. Prejudice never should trump professionalism so I’m wondering why more of those who make false or frivolous reports to police aren’t charged?
That’s the scary part of this new dynamic of racism in America – it’s coming from everywhere and from people in the most authoritative positions in our community. I recently became aware that a group of local Republicans are protesting the second annual Black History Month Banquet. The Charleston County Republican Party last year initiated the banquet to recognize local black citizens who make outstanding contributions to our community.
At the inaugural banquet honorees included Charleston Chronicle founder James French, funeral home owner/director Chardale Murray, North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess, Charleston County Sheriff Major Eric Watson and the late Dorothy Johnson, mother of civil rights activist Elder James Johnson. This year’s honorees include: Ken Battle, a Summerville Republican who is chairman of the state Commission for Minority Affairs; Charleston County Associate Probate Judge Tamara Curry, the first African-American president of the National College of Probate Judges; Former state Rep. Samuel Rivers; Charleston County School Board Chairman Eric Mack; and artistic director Art Gilliard, director of Art Forms and Theatre Concepts.
When Charleston County Republican Party Chair Larry Kobrovsky contacted me last year about the unprecedented recognition ceremony I realized race relations in our community was taking a bold step forward. Kobrovsky and his executive committee were reaching out in a way few other organizations had. Even the Democratic Party, which enjoys almost unquestionable loyalty from black voters, never has made such a move.
And it was a smart move. If Republicans want to diversify their voter base, they must reach out to minority communities. What better way to do that than to recognize outstanding Black citizens during Black History Month. Anyone who can’t understand that logic must be intellectually deficient. But then, that’s what discriminatory racism represents – intellectual deficiency.
I don’t want to get into name-calling or personal insults – some of the people pushing back on the banquet I consider good people who probably mean well. I guess some of them just don’t realize the subconscious racism they’re exhibiting. I think we all sometimes suffer that malady. That’s why we always have to step back a take a more objective look at stuff.
I understand we all don’t think alike and sometimes see the same things very differently. But I also realize, as my dear departed brother Ellis Mack often said – everybody’s got an agenda. The only rationale I can see in opposing the recognition of outstanding black citizens is some folks have allowed their prejudice to take precedence over their sense of practicality. Any persistence in that opposition tells me there are those who would perpetuate division over diversity. And that, my friends, is scary.
We’re almost two decades into a new millennium. We’ve entered an age where various factors will change our society beyond our recognition. There are things coming down the pipe we must embrace as we move into a global society. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I’m sharp enough to realize that we’re in a bad place and must take bold steps to move beyond it. I commend Kobrovsky and crew for having the guts and foresight to take such steps.