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And The Struggle Continues
4/8/2015 4:31:29 PM

By Barney Blakeney

I’ve been writing opinion columns nearly all the 37 years I’ve been working as a newspaper journalist. I guess I’ve gotten proficient at it - practice makes perfect. Years ago an editor told me its best to stick to one subject as opposed to bouncing all over the place with a lot of unrelated musings - fills the space, but doesn’t draw a focus.

At the risk of seeming scatterbrained, I’m going to hit on several different subjects that I think focuses on the fact that throughout the history of Black folks in this country, no matter how different our endeavors, the one constant has been that Black folks have consistently struggled. Each subject comes from something sent to my email address in the past week. The first was from my friend and mentor, Mr. James Campbell. Well, he doesn’t know he’s my mentor. I never asked his permission. But he shares so much information with me, there’’s no other way to describe my relationship with him.

Mr. Campbell sent me this thing about cotton. I remember a PBS documentary “When Cotton Was King” which outlined the role the commodity played in the development of the country’s economy. He referenced a review ‘Empire of Cotton’: The Violent History of Cotton and Capitalism. Europeans traded in many commodities including rice, indigo, sugar, rubber and tobacco, but none gave rise to slave and wage labor economic globalization like cotton, he noted.

I never picked cotton, but I recently heard two older cousins refer to their experiences in the cotton fields of Williamsburg County when they were younger. I find it amazing that the thing that brought so many slaves to America still was impacting Black lives among folks I know. It hasn’t been that long ago, ya’ll.

I also received a link to a newspaper article about U.S. Cong. James Clyburn’s comments about rolling back the clock on Black progress. In the article Clyburn talked about a lot of things. I was particularly interested in his comments that an inept (by design) governing board contributed to the problems at South Carolina State University.

He was quoted saying a lot of people who can’t spell policy were responsible for setting policy at the institution. I thought that was funny. It also occurred to me the governing board at SCSU is appointed by S.C. State Legislators. Ain’t it a blip that Black folks whose parents and grandparents had to struggle in America’s cotton fields also had to struggle at SCSU. White folks in the state legislature allowed Black folks in the state legislature to pimp SCSU and all the while Black kids struggled to get an education that was being denied them.

Undoubtedly they struggled for an education in the same physical location where their forebears picked cotton. National Park Service Ranger Michael Allen sent me an email about the April 10 recognition of Black Union soldiers during the Civil War who fought at Appomattox, Va. when Lee surrendered. According to the info Allen sent, although Blacks made up only about one percent of the northern population, by the end of the Civil War Black troops represented about 10 percent of soldiers in the Union Army. Of the 620,000 soldiers who died during the Civil War some 40,000 were Black, according to the Civil War Trust.

I also found it interesting that among the northern-born free Blacks and escaped slaves in the Union Army were foriegn-born men from China, Indonesia and the Philippines who made up about three percent of the Black troops. Not only were Blacks in America willing to struggle in the cause for freedom, others from around the globe did as well. I reflected on the continuing struggle of Black folks who won the right to vote through the deaths of so many others during the Civil War when I got the Email from Rev. Joe Darby. It was about 10 reasons a vote for Republicans is a vote for racism. The link he sent led to racist comments made by 10 leading Republicans. Among them Trent Franks (R-Az), House majority whip Steve Scalise, political pundit Ann Coulter, Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and former presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

Former Charleston Sen. Robert Ford reminded me the struggle continues with an email calling for liveable minimum wages of $25 per hour. Yeah, right! Imagine that - the sons and daughters of former slaves brought to this country to toil for nothing being paid a liveable wage regardless the amount. As the Temptations sang in their hit song it’s all just a “Ball of Confusion”. But don’t get it twisted, when it comes to struggle, “It ain’t over”.

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