By Barney Blakeney
Too often we focus on the wrong stuff. Last week I wrote a story about candidates who have filed for municipal elections in North Charleston. Erroneously I wrote one candidate previously ran for the North Charleston mayoral position. You woulda thought I’d shot the pope, according to some Facebook critics!
It was like a shark feeding frenzy, folks were finding all kinds of fault with the article. That’s okay. I don’t put my big boy pants on every day. I never take ‘em off! And I was raised by some men of character, my daddy and uncles Teddie, Wesley, Mo’ise, G.W., Fron and Coble. They taught me to admit when I make a mistake and to correct it if possible. I try to do that. But I say to those who so wantonly criticize – “Let you among them who is without sin (don’t make mistakes) cast the first stone”.
I get criticism and suspect I’ll be getting a lot more! I started this gig as a young Black man full of ideas about how our world should be. Most of my editors allowed me to use the platform of journalism to share those ideas. I figure I musta been doing something right, I’ve lasted this long and won a few accolades along the way. We’re living in a time when we need real talk not political correctness. I got here callin’ ‘em like I see ‘em. I’m gonna continue.
Last week’s story was a prelude to others that will come as we get closer to the November 5 municipal elections. I’m sure I’ll piss some people off. There’s a lot to get mad about regarding the upcoming elections. Black candidates figure we need to vote for them just because they’re Black. We’ve done that for the past 40 years. It ain’t working!
Voting Black when the candidate either is inept or incapable is counterproductive to Black progress. And voting one’s best interest has nothing to do with ‘longtime friend’, ‘frat brother’, ‘sister girl’ or ‘nice person’. The only concern should be whether the candidate can get the job done in our best interest.
One critic noted the story focused on race. Idealistically race shouldn’t play a definitive role in political representation. But we all know better. Race-based voting is the American way. Other racial, ethnic and cultural groups make that work for them. Black folks haven’t significantly done that.
After a conversation with a friend Saturday, I rode through the Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood north of Reynolds Avenue between Rivers and Spruill avenues. What I saw was heart wrenching – a lot of dilapidated, substandard and vacant houses and unkempt lots. I grew up in the area and had friends who lived there. I’m at a loss to find words to describe what I saw Sunday morning.
Some might rush to say the conditions we find in impoverished minority communities ain’t the residents’ fault – they’re victims. That’s true. But as my friend emphasized, there are some things we must do for ourselves. My mom used to say you may be poor, but you don’t have to be dirty. The only time I ran away from home was when my mom whupped me for not raking the yard. I didn’t think it needed raking. She told me to do it anyway. I balked. She started whuppin’ and I started runnin’. Bad idea!
I’ve been around a long time and have learned a lot of stuff. I ain’t the smartest guy in the world, obviously not the world’s best journalist. But I know Black folks have half the votes on North Charleston City Council and enough voting strength among the electorate to make anything happen they choose. How is it that crime is highest, poverty is greatest and education is poorest in Black communities? Somewhere there’s a disconnect.
As we get closer to November we’ll hear more from the Temptations – remember their song ‘Ball of Confusion’ in which one line says, “Vote for me and I’ll set you free”. Candidates will promise to change conditions for Black folks. North Charleston voters should make them explain how they plan to do that.
Peter Bailey in his op-ed piece published in the August 21 edition of The Charleston Chronicle chastened Democrats to beware of presidential candidates who are playing the ‘me, myself and I’ political game. Bailey says most among the outrageous number of Democratic primary candidates know they can’t win the presidential election. They’re striving for personal attention or future positions. If their desires were to defeat the con man in the White House they would develop a consensus and spend their energy in support of a single candidate. North Charleston voters should take heed.
On Monday I spoke with a North Charleston religious leader who said an overwhelming vote returning incumbents to office would be a referendum in favor of the status quo. The religious leader said voters should ask whether their representatives have served their communities well since being elected. I don’t think most North Charleston residents favor the status quo, but I also don’t think North Charleston voters will unseat the incumbents. Like the critics of my story, I think they’re focused on the wrong stuff.