|Someone Has To Pay
6/22/2016 1:28:02 PM
By Barney Blakeney
Had another knock-down, drag-out difference of opinions with a news source last night.
My source is a strong-willed, opinionated and brilliant woman with whom it’s hard to get a word in edge-wise when she’s pumped up.
She’s been described as a nut case. And it’s true! The sister is nuts when it comes to standing up for her constituents. She get so impassioned, sometimes I think she’ll blow a gasket.
Anyway, we were talking about folks who silently endure injustices. Too many people see things that aren’t just, but say nothing because they don’t want to jeopardize their own situation. My source said she gives those people a pass. They have secure jobs, mortgages, kids in school. I’ve always challenged that line of logic. We’ve all got stuff we want to protect.
But I see people like Malcolm, Martin and Muhammad who put it all on the line to challenge the injustices they saw. I figure those who are unwilling to make sacrifices are undeserving of the benefits that come as a result of those sacrifices. A man unwilling to work doesn’t deserve to eat. Mind you, I say unwilling, not unable. There’s a difference.
So I got a little peeved the other day at receiving an anonymous letter from some guy asking the paper to investigate and expose a local public official who uses his influence to manipulate public projects for personal gain. Most of the stuff the writer wrote about is stuff that’s commonly known.
Until the past few decades, political power, and consequently economic power, was centered in downtown Charleston. A lot of people, not many of whom are black people, have gotten rich off development projects which were fueled by local government.
For decades black folks talked about the Urban Development Action Grants that funded Charleston Place and how money received from the feds to improve minority communities financed the redevelopment of the city that eventually displaced those black communities. The rich got richer and black folks got the hell out. Thirty-five years later the fourth generation of Charleston Place owners are paying back a portion of what’s owed. Watch who benefits from those shenanigans.
According to the letter writer, the same thing’s unfolding in North Charleston. Centre Point developers at Tanger Outlet are benefiting from municipal incentives engineered by public officials who openly reap millions of dollars as a result. What’s so surprising to me is that those North Charleston gangsters boldly enrich themselves at public expense without a whisper from those who are supposed to watch the hen house.
The writer talked about retroactive Tax Increment Financing (TIF) reimbursements and future development projects guaranteed because of the political clout wielded by public officials influencing votes and contract awards. I’m still wondering why Charleston County purchased land on West Montague Avenue it had to have known would not be suitable for construction of a new transportation hub and who made that money.
From Awendaw to the Charleston International Airport, land and its development increasingly has become the motivation for exploitation and source of wealth. Some more enlightened cultures hold that people don’t own the land. We’re only its caretakers. But as most black folks relinquish their land rights, others profit from it. The letter writer said tens of millions of dollars are being pumped through the local economy that profit certain corrupt individuals who laugh at ethics rules with apparent impunity.
The letter writer wrote, “Life is a constant struggle between wanting to do right and wanting to see fairness, but having to provide for your family. When the reach of those we fear can affect one’s employment and termination, at the end of the day my kids need to eat, I have to pay the power bill, the mortgage and make car payments. The higher choice is to keep quiet and make sure the lights stay on.”
That’s the argument my news source made. I understand the argument. But I always reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He too had mortgages, light bills to pay and kids to feed. Like most of us, King wanted to see his kids grow into adulthood and experience the time-honored benefits of becoming a grandparent.
But he didn’t think the higher choice when confronting injustice was to remain silent - to go along and get along. King spoke out against injustice.
It cost him all those things we hold so dear. How does one live with oneself enjoying the fruit of another’s sacrifice unwilling to stand for right, never mind falling for it as Malcolm, Martin and Muhammad did?