This column appears in the September 21, 2017 edition of Urban Pro Weekly.
Before I continue talking about the controversy surrounding a proposal to move the James Brown Arena (JBA) to South Augusta, I want to get something off of my chest.
If you saw a story this past week that came out of North Augusta, S.C., about a local man who requested that a post-Confederate monument be taken down at Calhoun Park, that man was me.
I spoke up, with civility and authority, against a moral wrong. I spoke up, with civility and authority, against historical embellishments.
Comment sections, of course, are on fire. That is not relevant to me. What is relevant is the here and now.
It is time for each of us to become more politically aware and active. It is time for us to speak to moral wrongs and community concerns, on every level.
One of the most discouraging things I heard in the aftermath of my commentary in North Augusta was, “We were waiting for someone to speak on this issue.”
I translated that as, “We were afraid to speak on this issue because of the controversy it would draw. We were afraid to speak on a moral wrong because we felt it would inconvenience us in some way.”
It is vital that all of us, and in particular, our elected officials, speak the truth — however inconvenient.
THE UGLY (side of the JBA proposal)
When discussion about the JBA proposal reached its peak in the media/public eye, there was a side story that, for a moment, was pushed to the forefront. It was a story about a fight that happened at the Walmart at Deans Bridge Road.
The fight, of course, was used as an indictment of South Augusta.
And then, a false equivalence happened: if there’s a fight in South Augusta at a Walmart, then a fight can happen at the James Brown Arena if it’s in South Augusta!
That’s more than foolish — it’s flat-out stupid. A fight could happen at the JBA if it’s in downtown. A fight could happen anywhere because that’s the nature of mankind.
Thing is, these types of indictments happen because of inherent racism. There is a stigma attached to South Augusta — that stigma features crime and poverty.
That stigma, for many folks, has a Black face. That stigma is ugly and the folks who subscribe to it have an ugly mindset.
That is just the start of the hypocrisy. Apparently, there was a study done prior to the Mayor’s decision to move the JBA to South Augusta. The study costs $140,000, and it essentially discouraged the move to the Regency Mall property.
Wait, the city cares about studies? I didn’t know that, because there’s a disparity study that’s been sitting on the shelf since 2009 that speaks to discrimination against businesses owned by people of color, as well as businesses owned by women. That study can be found at this address: http://www.augustaga.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2072
One of the findings in the study is that “minorities and women are substantially and significantly less likely to own their own businesses as the result of marketplace discrimination than would be expected based upon their observable characteristics, including age, education, geographic location, and industry. We find that these groups also suffer substantial and significant earnings disadvantages relative to comparable non-minority males, whether they work as employees or entrepreneurs.”
Also, there are concerns about government working behind closed doors. Wait, we care about that now, as well?
Back when there were six white commissioners on the dais, there was a campaign that essentially destroyed city services through privatization. A lot of these meetings allegedly happened “before the meeting,” which is to say when it was time for these gentlemen to vote, their minds (and their plans) had long been made up.
In short, Augusta’s hypocrisy is ugly. In many ways, it is America’s hypocrisy.
It is a hypocrisy that treats Black people as second-class citizens, as if we have no morals or merits.
It is this attitude that erroneously justifies the mistreatment of Black people and expands on already impossible disparities.
We must fight this attitude vigorously and with veracity. We must also understand that the truth doesn’t matter to some people. Those people need to be turned back at every opportunity, and Lord knows, we can’t allow those people to make decisions that will affect the day-to-day decisions of a city, a state, or our country.
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