Racism conference took us nowhere


Talking about racism, bitching about the state of Black America, marching to "right an injustice" — I think we've done enough of that. I can't help thinking that while we are out marching, somebody somewhere is watching us and laughing.

    This notion stuck in my mind during the Emergency Conference on Racism last month. While I'm a cynic at heart, I was hoping something positive would come from it — maybe a little action instead of talk.

    I was hoping to see people with starkly different views come together instead of colleagues having a reunion of sorts. All that was offered was more rhetoric, more division and an exercise in egos. All in all, this added up to no solution to South Carolina's racial problems.

    This is not to say that nothing positive came from the conference; it did bring people and resources together. Hell, it even brought Gov. David Beasley out of denial that there is no racism here.

    But the conference accomplished little. Participants basically had the same liberal perspective. It was tiring to hear speeches about minority districts and affirmative action. It was nauseating to hear another activist disown Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

    Keeping affirmative action and minority districts, and removing Thomas from the Supreme Court will do nothing to address racism; Thomas, affirmative action and minority districts are merely symptoms of racism.

    Some African-Americans do not believe in affirmative action or minority districts and some support Thomas. Having these people at the conference would have offered different perspectives. Discussion is good, but what's the point when all those taking part have pretty much the same beliefs and the same agenda? What's the use of talking if you're just preaching to the choir?

    I also have a problem with this obsession with the Confederate flag. I hate that flag being on the State House; I don't think it belongs there. But the flag has nothing to do with education or opportunities for African-Americans.

    Lastly, what was the point of the conference? To have a march? According to Kevin Gray, a local organizer, the conference was a compromise because the National Council of Churches lacked the "political juice" or the consensus of the community for a march.

    Now Gray says, "We shouldn't have to wait for national organizations to be the catalyst in mobilizing us, because all politics is local. When you work with a national organization they have their own agenda that comes before the local agenda."

    Rise Up decided to have a march before the conference idea. After the conference, it appears that the march is still on. We went from Point A to Point B and back to Point A with nothing to show for it but a tedious journey and angry feelings.

    Besides, what's with all of these marches? It underscores the problem of black leadership in this country. While John Lewis, Julian Bond and Stokeley Carmichael have either become a part of the system or fled to other countries, the black leaders who have taken their places are coming up with the same old tired solutions to the race problem.

    Gone are the days of "We Shall Overcome." In its place are the angry children of Generation X and "Niggaz 4 Life." Whether we like it or not, people have become desensitized to marches, mainly because there have been too many of them and we live in a more cynical age.

    The real problem — a lack of education and common sense — is not addressed by leaders who are swept up in the movements of yesteryear.

    The organizers of this march say it will be the beginning of a new social movement for African-Americans and the poor. This time, I will remain skeptical.


    Alvin McEwen is associate editor of Black News in Columbia.

© Copyright by POINT, 1996
Last modified 11/26/96