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Train Into The Future Leaving Black Folks Behind
8/6/2014 4:43:10 PM

By Barney Blakeney

I recently had another enlightening conversation with my friend Clyde Holmes. We go all the way back to the days of playing in the dirt together. We all could get our school work. We grew up during the days when Black parents demanded their kids get some education. But Clyde always was a little different. He thought outside the box.

Most folks probably don’t realize that Clyde is responsible for a lot of the freedoms Blacks folks in Charleston enjoy. Our generation came of age at the end of the militant 60s. The Civil rights Movement had won some concessions. We were too young to really be involved, but old enough to know what had happened. Our generation was the one that was supposed to move things forward from there.

Clyde was on point. He came home from college wound up and rearin’ to go. He understood that our responsibility was to get educated, come back to our communities and start building. Previous generations had kicked the doors of opportunity open, our jobs were to go through and seize the American dream.

Clyde did a good job for us. By the time I got home, a couple of years after the rest of my graduating class, Clyde had set up shop at Bayside Manor Apartments as a social worker.

He not only organized the low income residents of that community, but also a group of us young turks who were hellbent on changing the world.

Clyde led the charge on a lot of initiatives that put in place infrastructure that has helped sustained the Black community. He wasn’t about talking tough and holding meetings, the brother was about challenging the status quo and using its mechanisms to work for all citizens. We won some and we lost some. With Clyde’s visionary leadership, in our own small way, we won some important battles.

But my recent conversation with Clyde forced me to face some things I’ve known a long time. We talked about a lot of stuff during our conversation, everything from gentrification to genocide.

One of the things that stood out most was his remark that the train of equality and inclusion has left the station. I think white folks and others should hold up the train to allow Black folks to get aboard because that’s the right thing to do. It’s not gonna happen, Clyde said.

Nobody cares about doing the right thing, my brother said. Life for most is about getting what I want for me and mine and moving on. Anybody who’s left behind is just left. In fact, it’s more expedient to leave some folks behind. Clyde doesn’t even see it as racism. I disagree.

Like a lot of folks I’ve been talking with recently, Clyde said American socio-economic dynamics are shaped more by classism and economics than racism. I think that’s true to some extent, but I think at the roots of it all is racism.

No matter how much money or what social class a Black person has or belongs to, at the end of the day he’s still just a nigro with money and manners.

There will be a few Black folks on the train to future progress, but most will be running after it trying to hop onboard. I told Clyde that reminds me of the displacement of Black folks in the Greater Charleston Metropolitan area. Tens of thousands of Black folks have been pushed around this region like pawns on a chessboard. And like pawns on a chessboard, they eventually will be taken off the board.

Clyde, who left Charleston some 30 years ago, said he saw gentrification and its subsequent displacement coming. Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley’s plan for development (gentrification) I think has been a visionary master stroke - well planned and methodical.

I don’t know that anybody planned the genocide (masked as fratricide) that has come as masses of uneducated, unemployed, Blacks suffer through a delusion of parity as the train of equality pulls out of the station.

Clyde wondered why I thought that other folks should help Blacks in their struggle to curb the killing. My reasoning recently was demonstrated by two teenagers who chose to use guns in a robbery attempt upon somebody they know at Northwoods Mall. The 16-year-old suspect’s criminal record is unbelievable.

That the kids are so prone to violence says how badly Black folks need help from somewhere. But then, what else should be expected of an obsolete race of people? Black folks were brought to these shores as a workforce. Today, America has an automated workforce supplemented by a new oppressed group. Black folks are expendable. Just as during slavery many feel there’s no benefit in educating the masses of Black people. Hence our kids learn their behavior from the world to which they’re exposed.

At the end of our conversation, I had to agree with Clyde. No one’s going to hold up the train for Black folks to get onboard. We have too much baggage. If Black folks are going to get on the train to the future, we either must run faster or block the tracks. It’s obvious we’re neither wanted or needed on the ride into the future.

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