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Shots Fired, Black Elected Officials Asleep
6/10/2015 10:46:36 PM

By Barney Blakeney  

A couple of weeks ago I ran into real foul trouble with a friend when I criticized local black elected officials. Some folks seem to think there should be sacred cows in our community, especially if they own the cow. Well, news flash. This ain’t India. There are no sacred cows here whether they be venerable individuals or organizations.
That column was about the lack of proactive action on the part of Black elected officials when it comes to the South Carolina State University debacle. Some may think that issue is over since the S.C. General Assembly has appointed its ad hoc committee to oversee the university’s administration. Chile, the stuff ain’t hit the fan yet. Them folks have got three years to transform SCSU into whatever they want. We’d do well to heed the warnings of former SCSU Board of Trustees Chair William Small.
But that’s not what I want to write about in this column. I got blasted for writing in that other column Black elected officials wait in a holding pattern until they decide what easy issue they can land on costing them the least political capital and maximizing their most personal gains.
We’ve got five-year-old babies being gunned down in our housing projects and our legislators only passed a bill to provide body cameras to police officers. Six months those jokers sat in Columbia and even they admit they got very little accomplished this legislative session. Ethics reform, gas tax - all that fell be the wayside. But they passed the body camera bill.
I talked with Rev. Nelson Rivers last night. He was on the road from Macon, Ga. Busy man. We talked about the Charleston County School District’s superintendent search. At one point the comment was made that as tragic as Tyreik Gadsden’s May 22 shooting in front of his grandmother’s house may be, Black children are being crippled by the discriminatory policies and practices of the school district every day. And that tragedy has been ongoing for decades.
It was one of those crippled children who shot Tyreik. You see, when we fail to teach children and mold them into productive citizens that’s what some of them do, get involved in illegal activities and shoot people. Yet in all the debate that’s ongoing about the superintendent search, the voices of our local black elected officials have been silent. I once asked a state legislator if he felt he should be involved in the discussion about local schools. The guy said that wasn’t their jobs. Those discussions should be held at the local level, he said.
Stupidest thing I ever heard! Aren’t students in local schools the constituents of state legislators as well? Here I am thinking that the smart cookies we elect to represent us at the state level should be figuring out innovative ways to impact public education and I get this guy telling me that’s not his job.
I get stuck on the education thing. You see, I believe when you educate a person you give that person the tools they need to accomplish almost anything. White elected officials know that. That’s why they have the best schools. But even they limit the education they provide their children. Kids who really are taught to be progressive thinkers would jeopardize the status quo, and they don’t want that either.
In an earlier conversation I had with Rev. Rivers he breached the subject of Volvo automakers coming to the Lowcountry. Our legislators are giving the company hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives to locate here. They’ll bring thousands of good paying jobs with them. The spinoffs will affect many facets of our local economy. And while the white boys are preparing their children to participate in that economic windfall, our young Black men are shooting kids at play.
Okay, so I ain’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. I don’t know how to get young Black men who engage in illegal activities that too often lead to the violence that’s destroying our communities into more positive activities. But ain’t that what community leaders are supposed to do? Lead us to a better place?
I pulled up some data about legislative actions taken by some of our local Black elected officials. When it comes to introducing legislation at any level, with few exceptions, our Black representatives are not even on the radar. Look at our folks at the municipal level and they’re asleep at the wheel.
Again, considering this just completed general assembly legislative session, elected officials Black and white, seem to have taken the year off. But I ain’t concerned about white elected officials. Their babies ain’t gettin’ shot up outside their granny’s house.
All our young Black men aren’t sellin’ drugs and totin’ guns. There are a lot of young Black men in our community who have done the right things. They’ve gone to schools, gotten good educations and are here working in  our communities trying to make a positive difference. We should be grooming them for public service. Black elected officials should be leading that effort.

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