This column was originally published July 30, 2015, after the sign at the site of the future Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce building was vandalized. It is reprinted today after that new but unoccupied building burned.
Why do we need a Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce?
That question has rattled around in my brain for some time.
But when some coward spray-painted “RACIST” across one of the organization’s signs (overnight July 25-26, 2015), the old question demanded answers.
Never miss a local story.
The most important answer was given in the news story: The organization is open to all and never has and never will discriminate based on race, color or creed.
But it does focus on the needs of Americans who were for centuries discriminated against based on race and color. Blacks were discriminated against in business, jobs, banking, housing, education, recreation, socialization. They were written out of history, paid a pittance and called “uncle” and “boy.” They were kept “in their place” in everything from waiting rooms to career tracks.
So, no, it’s not hard to imagine why some blacks might be uncomfortable with the power structure, usually represented by the chamber of commerce. It’s not hard to imagine why some blacks may need a hand, or at least empathy, to get to the bargaining table. And an organization that concentrates on those special circumstances is logical.
Neither is it a surprise to see that this organization could have special expertise in promoting the county’s important historical role in the African American experience.
The black chamber says it works with, not against, the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, as well as local municipalities and state and federal agencies.
It is affiliated with the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce. America is full of business organizations that cater to groups such as blacks, Asians, Latinos and women. These organizations are reasonable, and helpful.
The Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce states up front that it is not a traditional chamber of commerce. It specializes in helping people identified by the federal government as disadvantaged when trying to enter the mainstream of business.
It works to get more people into the entrepreneurial world, where the primary color is green. Whatever can be done to help more people earn more money is good for this county.
Personally, I think the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce has a confusing and off-putting name. And it should be an organization that puts itself out of business. Everyone should be at the same table pulling in the same direction.
But that does not mean we don’t need it. And it certainly does not mean it is racist.