I am almost 61 years old and a native South Carolinian. My father’s family were Saluda County farmers; they were not wealthy by any means. My mother’s family worked in the cotton mills and lived on the Mill Hill in West Columbia; they were known as Lent Heads. There was never any slave ownership in my family.
Most every person who grew up a white Southerner has paid a price for slave ownership. Was it wrong? Of course it was wrong, but none of us living today participated in it.
Were segregation and the way the black population was treated wrong, was it unfair, were there injustices committed? Of course so. I cringe at some of the things I have read. Can we go backward and make any of that go away? No. The only way to change things is to move forward. We want to have unity, but in that same breath we want to segregate every organization to have a separate arm for the African-American issues. We all know this would not be acceptable were the shoe on the other foot.
If we really want unity, let’s fight against the real problems in America, the real problems in South Carolina.
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There are still slave owners, and they are right in your backyard. There are pimps, sex traffickers and those who smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States and put them to work in sweat shops or low-paying jobs. They are white, black, Hispanic, male, female, young and old. It is time to see the real enemy.
Sure, there are still white racists. There are black racists. But black-on-black crime is soaring as much as any other crime. This must be addressed. Law enforcement training must be addressed. We need to protect our children. We need to get out of the past and step into the future. We need to confront the real problems that plague us. If not us, who? If not now, when?
It is time for us to have a real conversation about real issues that matter. We have to decide to stop memorializing past injustices and move forward, or we will never be any more than we are right now. We can decide if we want to keep doing the same thing for the next 20 years or if we become the generation that actually made a difference.
Sen. Katrina Shealy