Although The 7-10 generally focuses on national politics, I thought I would include a letter I wrote to the editor of the largest newspaper in South Carolina--The State. This is in reference to the recent story about Al Sharpton finding that his ancestor's slavemaster shares an ancestor with Strom Thurmond.
South Carolina is one of the most conservative states in America. While there are some pockets of progressivism, this state is generally ruby red. (And no, I'm not saying conservative political views translates into racism.) Unfortunately, race relations in this state are not so hot, as is recently evidenced by a few recent letters to the editor that were dismissive of the story and questioned its news value. Here's one example, written by a Mr. John Feaster of Columbia:
Someone please tell me why it is newsworthy who the Rev. Al Sharpton may or may not be related to from more than 100 years ago.
Is he jockeying to get a place in line for any leftover estate?
I obviously could not let this ignorant statement go unchallenged. So I quickly drafted my own letter and sent it to the editor a few minutes ago. I don't know if it will be published there, but I won't let that stop me from posting it here. Take a look at the letter and judge for yourself:
The Rev. Al Sharpton recently found out that his ancestor's slavemaster shares an ancestor with the late Sen. Strom Thurmond. And now there have been letters to the editor dismissing the story, asking why this is relevant after more than 150 years, and even questioning Sharpton's motives.
These critics are providing a perfect example of why Blacks have such a high level of mistrust of Whites in South Carolina and throughout the South. Fair or not, there's a perception out there that White people just don't care about Blacks. But Blacks aren't allowed to be dismissive of Whites.
For example, regarding the Confederate flag in front of the statehouse, whenever someone writes a letter expressing a wish that the flag be taken down and placed in a museum, many angry rebuttals soon follow telling the flag opponent that "that flag represents our Southern heritage" and "should be honored." The fact that most Blacks do not respect the Confederacy seems to be a non-issue to them. How dare these Blacks try and minimize our (White) history?
Finding out that one of the most famous civil rights leaders in America (and one of the biggest nemeses of the conservative right) is related to one of the most famous South Carolinians ever who once espoused what the Black leader now fights against is quite newsworthy. It's an amazing coincidence. Many Blacks are unable to trace their family history because of poor records and the fact that so many families were broken up during that terrible time, so this is particularly interesting news to the Black community. But now many Whites are adopting a "who cares?" attitude.
The Confederate flag is a big deal to many White South Carolinians. Slavery is a big deal to many Black South Carolinians. Why is it okay for Whites to minimize Black history regarding tracing their ancestry, but it's not okay for Blacks to minimize White history regarding the Confederate flag? And are any Whites willing to take a stand against the other Whites who are so openly dismissive of this issue? Or is it possible that these critics speak for the majority?
I really hope they publish this, although I fear it may be a bit too long. It just burns me up to see something so ignorant come out of the mouth of a supposed adult. There are people like this all over the nation, not just in the South. But if my words can reach just one person and get that person to think and reexamine his ideas about this subject, then I will have succeeded. It's obvious that nobody else has much to say about this.