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Racism: More Talking and Less Squawking
9/23/2015 2:25:50 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

It’s been three months since the Emanuel Nine murders and folks are still talking about working together just like they did after Hurricane Hugo.

Speaking of Hurricane Hugo, it just occurred to me that tomorrow is the 26th anniversary of the most devastating storm to blow through Charleston during my lifetime. Folks are still talking about how Charleston came together in the face of adversity to help each other.

And, the same conversation is being held about the Emanuel Nine people coming together. Yes, folks are coming together but just what is it they are doing. Is it just me?

There is a whole lot of squawking going on and less talking about the real issues that have surfaced since the murders. Folks talk a mean game but when it comes to action, it’s always excuses, excuses and more excuses.

I have lived long enough to know that when folks have their backs up against the wall they will do anything to survive; and, once the imminent threat of danger is over, so ends communal relationships. Let me share a little about good intentions, it’s only good if it’s acted upon in a positive manner. Promises are made all of the time but how many are really carried out?

They don’t call Charleston the Holy City for nothing. Charleston has a church on every corner and one in the middle of the block. I tell you when I heard the choo choo sound of Hugo bearing down on my home I double clutched my prayer and went into overtime mode. Then, all of a sudden it got really quiet—sort of eerie. We were in the eye of the storm. As the hymnist would say,” if you ever needed the Lord before, you sure do need Him now”. Yes sir, it was praying time!

In the aftermath of Hugo, goods and services were pouring in. Folks across the nation witnessed the devastation on television and galvanized their communities into giving clothes, food, furniture, cleaning supplies, money and health care products. It seemed like Charleston was coming together.

Neighbors that had never spoken before were seen helping each other cut down trees off their homes. After all, almost everyone had lost something or had family members who did. People did not see color; they saw devastation.

It was time to put aside racial discord and work together to rebuild lives and homes. For the first time in recent history, folks found themselves in the same boat or were they?

Tons of stuff were stored in warehouses around the Lowcountry but as always, the big ticketed items like furniture and appliances did not make it into the homes of the poor.

Volunteers came in and worked on homes free of charge but many off the homes were in the more affluent neighborhoods. Once again the poor found themselves victims of systemic racism. Either you are going to help change the disparities between the races or just go somewhere and sit down. Don’t pretend you are making a difference when you are making a mess.

Folks keep talking about diversity and coming together in the aftermath of the Emanuel 9 murders but y’all ain’t doing nothing but squawking. Much like with Hugo, some folks are mourning and atoning but this too shall pass. All of this squawking will go down in history as another missed opportunity to get this race thing straight once and for all. It takes time, but you must start from somewhere.

Aside from forums, black folk being invited to worship at white churches and monies collected to help the victims’ families (which has yet to be distributed), how has living improved for the masses? What have the banks done to relax lending practices and predatory interest rates to help blacks secure loans for homes and small businesses?

Some banks in Charleston have never approved a loan for a black customer. Yet Black churches flock to these same institutions on Monday morning with thousands of black parishioner’s’ dollars.

What about job opportunities? How many companies have hired or promoted minorities since the Emanuel 9 murders to correct unfair practices of the past? How many solicitations have the City of Charleston, North Charleston or the County unbundled to give minorities a fair chance of competing for contracts? I hate to come off as pessimistic but give this mourning and atoning period some time and it will be back to squawking and not talking as usual.

Let’s keep it real! The key to narrowing the racial divide in this country is opportunity.

Like the late great James Brown said, I don’t want y’all to give me nothing; just open up the door and I will git it myself.” It’s going to take less squawking and more talking about equity to unlock the stronghold racism has in this country.

Y’all hearing me?

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