By Barney Blakeney
I find so much upsetting about the November 5 municipal elections in Charleston and North Charleston it’s hard to focus on one thing. Voting was low; only about 12,000 of about 64,000 registered voters cast ballots in North Charleston. Charleston voters showed up in higher numbers, about 26,000 of about 99,000 registered voters cast ballots. You don’t vote, you get what others vote for.
But this ain’t no pity party. While you always can look back and see what happened, you also can look forward and make things happen. This is about looking forward. By the time this writing hits the streets the elections will be over. The two runoff elections in Charleston will have been decided, so in that respect, I’m looking back. The view ain’t pretty. And I know who are the losers – Black business and the Black community.
At every level, in each municipality candidates squawked about all kinds of stuff – everything but Black business development. Well, to be honest, in North Charleston the conversation was about economic justice. But dagnabbit, them Negroes didn’t go to the polls and those who did re-elected many of the same folks who have failed to focus on economic justice in the past. The conversation never came up in Charleston where the focus was on flooding, traffic and hotel construction.
The candidates, especially the mayoral candidates, all talked a good game and drove home points they felt resonated among their respective constituencies. But I knew their focus wasn’t minority business development when only two or three candidates thought to use The Charleston Chronicle to help promote their campaigns. That told me those candidates who would not use the Chronicle’s platform aren’t really committed to full economic inclusion.
They each expected to receive the Black vote to some extent, but only a couple invested in the vehicle that could help deliver that vote. They either discounted or took for granted the Black vote. Say what you will or may about that ole piano player, but he advertised every week! Despite a losing effort, Singletary in North Charleston used The Chronicle exceedingly. Even Summey bought an ad.
Now here’s my point, before anyone construes this as a pitch for the paper, this ain’t personal. It’s business. Investment in the businesses that provide goods and services to our community is an investment in the viability of that community. A candidate’s investment in advertising in our community’s only Black-owned newspaper not only was a good idea to reach a vital voting bloc, it was a good investment in the economic vitality of our community. A candidate unwilling to make that investment trying to get elected probably won’t make that investment once elected.
So what does that mean looking forward? As we move toward the 2020 presidential election pay ‘tainchun’ to who uses the Black media in their campaigns. Presidential candidates will spend millions of dollars over the coming months seeking election to one of the most powerful positions on the planet. But I guarantee you they will take the Black vote for granted, especially the Democrats. Republicans don’t give a damn. They say we don’t vote for them anyway. That may be true – at least to some extent. Still, I don’t think they should get a pass. They use our money too.
Black voters didn’t have a financial focus in the municipal elections. We should narrow that focus in the presidential election. As of the latest census data release, there were 2.58 million Black-owned businesses in the United States, generating $150 billion in annual revenue and supporting 3.56 million U.S. jobs. Small businesses tend to hire from their communities creating jobs for neighborhood residents. Creating opportunities for Black entrepreneurs to succeed is critical to the economic empowerment of Black communities. Though there may not be a piano or sax player in the upcoming presidential election, we should not allow those jokers to play us like fiddles.