Southern Pride may need a facelift or at least an objective evaluation

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By Mark A. Leon

A society is only as strong as its weakest link.? Without order, without rules, it will crumble.? This was outlined with abandon in “Lord of the Flies”.? The weakness of Piggy resulted in his death and a realization that the island society would crumble due to its inherent flaws.

The United States lives under two fundamental belief systems, governed by Democratic and Republican ideals.? This two party system has dominated since the inception of freedom for the new settlers.? Variations of these values have risen, but not enough to take over the two-party stranglehold.

In a more hidden way, another separation remains, as strong now as it did when bloodshed covered this country with a sea of red: North vs South.? This is one that can have a more emotionally damaging affect than liberalism and conservatism.

We recently received a comment that sent a shiver of reality, not just in its emotional scars, but its truth.? These words deliver a telling message.

It saddens me to read all-of-these comments. I was planning on moving my family to Charleston from the North. Not all Northerners apply to this ..”nasty temperament and anti-Southern rhetoric”. Some of us, don’t like the temperament of the North even though we were born here. I wanted to move South to give my children a better, slower, way of life. But, reading all-of-these statements proves to me that they will not be accepted because they are “Yankees”. Very Sad.”

Several months ago, these comments came on the cusp of an image of the Folly Boat thanking President Obama for his eight years of service:

“Thank you????? For what?????? Dividing our country, the national debt, shredding our military, shitting on law enforcement, kissing the ass of the rest of the world? Paint over that shit asap!!!!!!! Any of you on here praising Obama are complete morons and need to stop voting. Trump WILL make America great again. Time to stop being a bunch of political correct pussies!!!!!!!!!”

“Who the fuck did this? Were they high as shit and tripping acid the last eight years? Was Charleston Daily right next to them nodding off too? You are fucking stupid.”

“and of course a bunch of stupid old white folk commenting bogus on this picture. love to preach the golden rule and it goes right out the door when their racist tendencies come back to light.”

Apathy vs ignorance

Each year, we remember Emmett Smith, Walter Scott and Emanuel AME.? Each year, the media spurs up articles and commentary on the apparent racism that still plagues the South and then we brush it under the table once again.

The South is growing as a destination spot. It is becoming home to a new migration, similar to the 49er’s migration to the west.? It seems, many aren’t ready for this change, because they are holding onto archaic principles of segregation, bias, hatred and ignorance.

  • We want the Confederate Flag down, but we have a Robert E. Lee street on James Island. Is the South proud of the fight for secession or in favor of an integrated country not separated by geography?
  • We believe in the right to bear arms, but arbitrarily determine what falls under freedom of expression.
  • This community, without research, without organized efforts, is quick to blame the “Northerners” for ruining the quiet community of Charleston. Yet, you welcome the North investment dollars that are bringing in massive economic growth.
  • We claim racism is not an issue, but sentiment and actions speak louder than words.

The question remains, what does Southern pride stand up for.? There seems to be a lack of consistency and caustic views on who “belongs”.

The United States was built by diverse people from different backgrounds, ethnic roots, religions and race, coming together in a melting pot to create this great democratic land.? The papers drafted by our fore-fathers outlined a country united.? It is those papers that government officials at all levels continue to use at the backbone for legislating and governing.

The idea of democracy is simple: Be free in a land of competition and opportunity.? In theory, it stands on a solid foundation.? In reality, there still seems to be a separation of North and South, Black and White and Rich and Poor.

After 150 years, is the war over?

Charleston Remembers: Free The Charleston Five! 17 Years Later

By Mark A. Leon

On January 20th, 2000, a protest on the Charleston, SC sparked a police riot and got the attention of a nation.? Seventeen years later, we remember the five individuals that became the center of the protest, riot and trial.? This was an event where class struggles and racism came together for one explosive chain of events.? The trial coined a vocal moment called, ‘Free The Charleston Five’.

In January 2000, after a march on Colombia, SC 3 days earlier to lower the Confederate flag from the State Capital, 150 members of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422 held a militant picket to protest the use of non-union labor by a small, renegade shipping line on the Charleston docks. The demonstration soon escalated into a violent face-off between authorities numbering over 600 and the workers, five of whom now faced trial for felony rioting charges in what has become one of the most closely-watched Southern labor battles.

Jason Edgerton, Elijah Ford Jr., Kenneth Jefferson, Ricky Simmons and Peter Washington Jr. were tried on federal charges of “felonious riot.” Considered by many as targets of a racist anti-union assault aimed at the heart of labor, as the bosses seek to break a key outpost of unionism in the South: Charleston, the East Coast’s second largest port.? At the time, only 4% of South Carolina was unionized.

Freeing the South Carolina dock workers became a national and international cause, and eventually the state backed down, agreeing to release them on misdemeanor charges. ILA Local 1422 has continued to be a vital center for community action in the area, including serving as a meeting ground for the Charleston Black Lives Matter movement after the police shooting of Walter Scott in April 2015.

Today, with the Boeing anti-union activism in South Carolina, Walter Scott, Emanuel AME and smaller unspoken incidents, it appears, we may not have moved much in the last seventeen years, other than becoming a little more peaceful in our feelings and actions.

Excerpt of Article in The Internationalist, June, 2001:

“Three days before the police riot of 20 January 2000, ILA Local 1422 participated in a march of tens of thousands in Columbia, the state capital, demanding that the Confederate flag be taken down from above the statehouse. The brutal attack in Charleston was in good part a “payback” from the racist state government. Yet the protest against the hated flag of slavery and KKK terror was exploited as a vehicle by the capitalist politicians of the Democratic Party – the same party of racism and exploitation that put the flag there in 1962 as a threatening show of hatred of the civil rights movement against Jim Crow segregation. In response to the protests, a “compromise solution” backed by Governor James Hodges and Charleston mayor Joseph Riley, Democrats elected with union backing, moved the racist banner from the top to the front of the building.

South Carolina labor does the legwork for the Democrats, and in return gets kicked in the teeth. After the longshoremen helped elect Hodges governor, he nominated Local 1422 president Ken Riley to the Port Authority, that is, to serve as a “labor statesman” helping the bosses administer port workers’ exploitation. The maritime companies said no way – and the nomination was promptly withdrawn. The longshoremen, together with a range of “progressive” groups, responded by picketing the state Democratic Party in Columbia. Yet in Charleston, the Local 1422 union hall doubles as Democratic headquarters! Now the Republicans seek to ram through a bill, known as the “Riley Act,” banning “card-carrying” unionists from serving on state boards so that, in the words of lieutenant governor Harvey Peeler, “the right-to-work foundation of our pro-business climate is never again compromised by union politics.”

Today, the two Carolinas boast the lowest rate of unionization in the entire United States: just above 4 percent. South Carolina is one of two states that do not comply with the federal minimum wage law. Low-wage, non-union labor has been the attraction for “run-away shops” including from France (Michelin tires) and Germany (BMW and others). Seeing themselves as born-again plantation overseers, the capitalist authorities have a special hatred for black longshore unionists who are a nucleus of labor organization in this state, where attempts to drive workers into virtual slave-labor conditions are cynically called “right-to-work” laws.”

Read more about the history and politics of the Charleston Five Incident:? Facing Flag Article ‘Flashback: The Charleston Five and the black struggle for justice’ (2015) and The Internationalist Article ‘Defend the Charleston Five!’ (2001)

 

2017 Boeing Anti-Union Commercial Ad
2017 Boeing Anti-Union Commercial Ad

Why the Dylan Roof Trial is Important to Charleston and America

By Mark A. Leon

In June, 2015, Charleston came under international spotlight with one of the most heinous acts ever committed in the United States.? It sent shivers down the spines of citizens around the world and awakened feelings that most have left hidden for years.? Today, after an emotional trial, the sentencing begins and the fate of this murder rests in the hands of twelve citizens.? By the end of today or this week, Dylan Roof will either spend his life in a confined cell or meet his death.

Why has this act and trial been so important to Charleston and America?? We determined some core reasons

  • It brought to the spotlight that racial tensions continue to exist in the United States.? President Obama broke a life changing and eminent barrier becoming the first African American President of the United States.? He has fought for racial equality as have prominent leaders for centuries.? The struggle still exists.? This act was a reminder of the true separation point that still remains between blacks and whites
  • Gun control is a real concern.? Whether you are pro or anti, the argument remains, guns are in the hands of some bad people.? Any sane person, knows, if a criminal or insane individual wants a gun, no amount of legislation will stop them.? The black market is and will continue to exist.? Maybe it is time for lawmakers to stop going after the law-abiding owners and look at ways to infiltrate the underground weapons market.
  • Peace has a place in the wake of tragedy.? Whether it is a murder or losing the World Series, many cities around the country choose, violence, looting, anger and hate to address their feelings.? Charleston demonstrated love, unity and hope as their method of grieving.
  • Prayer and faith are stronger than most can comprehend.? On a quiet Wednesday evening in a house of worship, nine innocent worshippers lost their lives in what most deem the safest place in the world; under the watchful eye of our Lord.? That was not the case for Emanuel AME.? Today, congregants in Charleston and around the country, remain strong to their faith and beliefs.
  • This goes much deeper than black and white.? Some may simplify this event as a hate crime by a white male on the black population.? Since the event, we have learned that this is not a factor simply of black and white.? Education, ignorance, embedded hatred and economics were all contributing factors not just for this event, but similar incidence in the past.
  • We are not driven by fear – The shootings could have had a devastating impact on this community.? We could have been cautious where we prayed, shopped or walked.? We could have ignored other races and creeds passing by, but we didn’t.? Charleston continues to be one of the friendliest cities in the United States and that is something we are proud of.
  • The punishment fits the crime.? How many times do we see criminals released because they could afford the best lawyers or serve limited sentences for good behavior.? No matter what the jury rules, justice will be served.
  • Remembrance is a way to keep legacies alive – Each year we remember the fallen.? A beautiful mural remains at Redux and flowers continue to be left at the entrance way of the church.? Throughout the world, Charleston was showered for months with well wishes.? That is a way to find goodness in evil; to remember.

As we see the final chapter of this horrific moment in our history play out, our thoughts continue to remain with the victims, families, congregation, Charleston and the world.