Tag Archives: Strom Thurmond

When the Sandlappers Stood Tall

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https://i0.wp.com/www.clipartbest.com/cliparts/Rid/gEj/RidgEjAdT.pngAs a native South Carolinian, I know full well my little pie-shaped state by the Atlantic Ocean has precious little to show for its 489 years of European influence. To be sure, we started out well enough and early to boot. Spaniard Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon, founded the first European settlement in what would be the United States back in 1526. Called San Miguel de Gualdape and founded with 600 settlers, including African slaves, the little colony only lasted three months. I suppose football season ended. We were one of the original Thirteen Colonies, the First State under the Articles of Confederation, and the Eighth State to ratify the US Constitution. One could say we made a good beginning. Unfortunately, things began a steep decline from such august beginnings around 1860 and we’ve had trouble getting back on the rails ever since. We have no confirmed Presidential birthplaces within our borders, and no Presidential campaigns ever hinge on our bright red state. None of the Big Four professional sports has a team which calls our state home. No national parks beckon tourists even if the Grand Strand does.

Indeed, few in this country notice us at all and if they do it is for some reason of negativity. We hover around 49th in educational success (thank you, Mississippi). We have staggering poverty in our Appalachian regions AND in our Lowcountry. We started the Civil War after all. Anytime we get press, it usually refers to the little pizza-pie shaped Southern rebel. Every now and then, however, my state grabs the national spotlight by the throat and shines it on some speck of accomplishment worthy of pride even if, in that moment of pride, sorrow usually dwells.

Recently, our nation has endured throes of rioting and rhetoric not seen since the Rodney King Verdict in the 90’s. Places like Ferguson, Missouri; Staten Island, New York; and Baltimore, Maryland have erupted in violence towards all following violence towards others — specifically blacks. In that same time period, my state has experienced two of the worst incidents of racial violence the country has produced in many years. Recently, a white police officer in Charleston, SC shot an unarmed black man seven times in the back as the man fled arrest. Just nine days ago, a young white boy walked into a Charleston, SC church of mostly black worshipers and, after spending an hour bathed in their love, rose from his pew and slaughtered nine congregants with a concealed handgun.

Considering the response to similar incidents across the nation, people in other states held their breath wondering how the towns and cities of South Carolina would burn with rioting and looting. Imagine their surprise when our response was justice instead of inflammatory and divisive rhetoric and unconditional love instead of spewed hatred. The dread gods of chaos did not descend upon my state. Al and Jesse didn’t rush here to make speeches. Instead, we held hands and wept together at the tragedy our people had endured, but we did not add wanton destruction to the already terrible loss. Our state stood tall as others looked on, waiting for flames, they found only flowers.

Now some might take my words in praise of my state to mean I feel South Carolina is above the fray other states find themselves in. Some may take me for a polemicist point out the progress this one time bastion of the Confederate States of America has made towards equality. Some may even think I’m daring to say South Carolina has overcome racism. So do I believe my beloved Palmetto State has truly turned the corner and we are beyond the pale in terms of racism? Have we really become the fertile ground to realize Dr. King’s mountaintop dream? In short, can we say with pride South Carolina is not a racist state?

OH HELL NO! Are y’all crazy? South Carolina is one of the most racist places in the USA. Come on, now, people.

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Look, Charleston, where all this happened, was one of the largest slave entry points in the colonies and later the country. “The Old Slave Market” is still a huge draw for the city’s multitude of tourists even if today ornamental tchotchkes instead of human chattel are the featured items. We may not have had as many huge plantations as Georgia or Virginia, but we had our share and African slaves bent their backs under King Cotton’s lash for 250 years. Oh, we started the Civil War that killed more Americans than any other conflict we’ve ever entered. Once the war was over, we replaced King Cotton with Jim Crow to “keep ‘them’ in their ‘place.'” Just because we didn’t have the Scotsboro Boys or Emmitt Till doesn’t mean we didn’t have lynchings a-plenty. The white robes Klansmen have always found a haven in the Palmetto State.

Ever hear of the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, KS? You know, the one that was supposed to strike down segregated schools? It passed in 1954. We didn’t have the Little Rock Nine and our governor didn’t sit in the schoolhouse door to bar “colored” from entering, but anyone want to guess when our little state finally complied and FULLY integrated all public schools? 1971, the year I was born and a full seventeen years after the Brown decision. Our longest serving US Senator from SC — the Honorable (oookayy) Strom Thurmond — ran for President on a platform of continuing and strengthening segregation. When the Civil Rights Movement reached full swing and came to South Carolina, the state legislature responded by requiring the Confederate Battle Flag to fly from the TOP of the Statehouse dome. Oh, and the piece de resistance, we sent a man to the United States House of Representatives who interrupted this country’s first black President during an INTERNATIONALLY TELEVISED SPEECH to call him a liar right in front of God, the international media, and a joint session of Congress. He was later re-elected to his House seat by a 96% margin.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R_SC) of “YOU LIE” infamy.

It’s safe to say we’ve come a ways, but we’ve got miles to go before we sleep equally well.

So what AM I trying to say about my state? First of all, we don’t HIDE our racism here just like we don’t hide our crazy relatives. No, we wrap a shawl around it’s neck, sit it in a rocker on the front porch, and let it wave at the neighbors. We were an original slave state; we started a freaking WAR to keep our states’ rights . . . to OWN PEOPLE. What’s the point in denying it? Drive all over the lower part of the state and you’ll see dozens of posh, well landscaped private schools named after Confederate generals and all with a plaque out front saying “FOUNDED 1971.” If you can’t beat ’em, run from ’em. Interracial couples still get a lot of stares and glares, but we aren’t stringing them up and while that might not seem like much, at least it’s something. What I’m saying is, we are trying. Overcoming 500 years of precedent and prejudice won’t be accomplished overnight, but we are trying.

https://i2.wp.com/i.huffpost.com/gen/3090818/thumbs/o-CONFEDERATE-FLAG-COLUMBIA-570.jpgFor example, if you are a cop and you shoot an unarmed man you were trying to arrest for non-payment of child support seven times IN THE BACK on VIDEO, we will not send the video to a lab and have it analyzed ad nauseum then convene a grand jury to figure out what should be done about you amidst much hand-wringing and moral agonizing. NO. Instead, we will fire you, take your badge and gun, charge you with first degree murder then THROW. YOUR. ASS. IN. JAIL! If some poor fool walks into a church and walks out later with an empty gun leaving behind nine dead worshipers, we aren’t calling “Reverend” Sharpton to come make a speech about how tragic the incident is while neighborhoods all across the state lose their minds and start burning police cars, smashing store windows, and looting everything in sight under the pretense of “being angry at the system.” Instead, we will pack out that church with people black, white, brown, red, pink, orange and green for every funeral. We will do what we always do for death in the South . . . mourn with those who mourn and send casseroles, pound cakes, and dry chicken to comfort the grieving.

That’s just the way we roll here in South Cackalacky. From poor white trash to Hilton Head / Cliffs of Glassy McMansions, we know how to act — black and white. We may not always do right, but we KNOW right from wrong because it’s the way our Mamas and Grandmamas — black and white — raised us to do. Family members get on TV and forgive the ignorant young man because it’s what Jesus said do and around here, Jesus and Mama are still more important than the media. So, no, we aren’t perfect and we’re still racist as Hell, but most of us WANT to do better. Just like every other state, we’re all in the same racist prison looking out the same racist bars. The difference is other states are looking at the mud and we are looking at the stars.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

Thoughts on Election 2012 Results: A History Lesson

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Does this map speak volumes to anyone but me? Facts are annoying little things, aren’t they?

This will probably not be my most popular post.

The American people have spoken and the sound-bite election summary is President Obama won reelection, the Republican party maintained control of the House of Representatives but lost a few seats, and the Democratic party maintained control of the Senate and picked up a seat or two as well. Democrats are rejoicing at the win, Republicans are wondering what went wrong when the President seemed so vulnerable, and the Florida Election Committee is still counting votes because that’s how they roll in Florida.

The bigger picture is much deeper. For one thing, I am deeply saddened to learn I now live in a Godless nation. Thank you, Facebook, for alerting me to the departure of the Glory cloud from the Temple. Apparently God stood by us through 200 years of chattel slavery, a century or more of genocide against the Native Americans, the Tuskegee Syphilis “Research”, virulent institutional — if unspoken — anti-Antisemitism, lynchings, Jim Crow, televangelists, reality television, etc. but the 2012 election was the final straw.

Since we re-elected a biracial, Harvard-educated Christian who follows his faith quietly instead of pandering to people by invoking God in everything instead of a man whose Mormonism says Satan and Christ are brothers born from God’s marriage to His celestial wife, that African-Americans are sub-human (at least until 1978), and that unmarried and/or childless women won’t get to go to Heaven because they will have no one to “call them through the Veil,” God is now finished with America. This seems perfectly logical given the state of politics AND Christianity in America today.

I am certain I am the ONLY Democrat in my family — immediate, extended, or in-lawed. In some peoples’ eyes this makes me a bad person who is obviously not a Christian. I find this situation INCREDIBLY ironic since two of the greatest people and Christians I ever knew — my beloved Papa and Granny Wham — died as registered Democrats. See, the youngsters among my limited readership may not know this, but once upon a time, South Carolina was known as a “Yellow Dog Democrat” state because the Democratic Party in South Carolina (and many other southern states) could “run a yellow dog for office and beat any Republican no matter how well qualified.”

That won’t happen today and maybe a very brief history outline will show why. Most southerners forget but the reviled Abraham Lincoln was the nation’s first Republican President. He set the standard for the Constitutional abuses of later Republicans with his suspension of habeas corpus and other executive acts during the Civil War. In the end, though, his actions helped end slavery. On the other hand, the Democratic Party — dating all the way back to Thomas Jefferson — was the party of slavery. South Carolina’s own  John C. Calhoun was a Democrat who defended slavery on the floor of the Senate as “not a necessary evil, but a positive good.” Following the Civil War during Reconstruction, the hated Republican party forced the occupied but unbowed southern states to elect “coloreds” to governorships and high Federal offices.

With this miniscule history of the parties laid out, what happened to make the Democratic Party — once the pro-slavery party — champions of people of color and poor of all colors? It all started with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  FDR’s “New Deal” made him a demigod among the poor and disenfranchised of the Great Depression, but his championing of liberal causes such as labor unions, social welfare, government regulation, and civil rights cracked the Democratic “Solid South.”

Those cracks exploded with the coming of the Civil Rights Movement of the Sixties. Democrat became synonymous with minority, poor, hippie, and liberal. The switchover completed in 1964 when the ageless Senator Strom Thurmond, again from this great Palmetto State, left the Democratic Party in protest of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and became a Republican. That’s where we’ve been ever since and as the country has gotten steadily less white and the divide between the wealthy and the middle class has reached its greatest extent since the Gilded Age, the polarization has intensified. Don’t mention the “wealth gap” though or you’ll be pilloried for “provoking class warfare.”

As a result of uber-partisan politics, we have a hopelessly gridlocked government where party loyalty trumps any desire to get anything done which might benefit the American people. Unfortunately, the gridlock has extended to the mindset of entirely too many Americans. God forbid you want to be like every single other industrialized first world country and have some sort of national health care. Mention that around here and people who don’t know the difference between a Communist and a Fascist will brand you a socialist. Even worse than Partisan Man is the dreaded “one issue voter.” For Evangelical Republicans, the issue is abortion. It doesn’t matter WHAT a Republican candidate believes or does. If he or she promises to overturn and undo Roe v Wade, the Southern Baptist Convention will endorse him from the conference floor.

Worst of all, however, is the completely uninformed voter. For Republicans, these are the disciples of Hannity, Limbaugh, and other denizens of talk radio. These voters don’t look up anything for themselves but believe anything and anyone as long as they are on Fox News after 6:00 PM, and they consistently support candidates who do not have their interests at heart. I know rabid Rush Limbaugh fans who collect Social Security or disability checks or receive other government assistance anathematic to the ultra-conservative wing controlling the Republican Party. These people can’t see they are voting for people who — if elected — would do away with or at best deeply cut the very programs sustaining them and their families. . . The irony is worthy of Shakespeare.

So, where do we go from here? The reality is “probably nowhere.” President Obama will continue trying to enact policies to benefit those other than “The 1%” and the Republican Party will fight him and stonewall him at every turn cheered on by a mass of red state voters who can’t or won’t realize when Rush or Glenn Beck are talking about “parasites” THEY are the ones being referred to.

Good luck in the next four years, remember I love y’all — Democrat or Republican alike, and most of all, keep those feet clean.