The caller was angry; the talk show host allowed him to spew, probably a little too long.
“These black leaders are all the same … no respect for law enforcement … playing the race card at every turn … never addressing the real problems facing their people …”
Next call, different view: “Unless you have walked in our place, unless you see an African-American face in the mirror, unless you know what it is to be a minority in America, then you have no place to talk about what we do or how we do it. You people here just don’t get it, and you are ruining our community because of your ignorant insensitivity.”
The conversation could have occurred any day, but what inspired this particular exchange was a debate over the “insensitive” display of the Confederate battle flag by a group of teenage boys at their high school a while back.
None of this occurred in Augusta, which is regularly described as being in some sort of special “twilight zone” of racial injustice run by white bullies. The above conversation was the first thing I heard when I tuned in to one of my favorite talk radio stations while visiting Pittsburgh, Pa.
A Confederate flag debate going on just down the street from Gettysburg, on KDKA — you gotta love it.
As the radio conversation went on, other “injustices” were discussed, including high-speed police chases that apparently are inspired by racism and judicial corruption that is based on, you guessed it, ethnic bigotry.
Sometimes it takes a 600-mile road trip and a blast of Arctic-quality cold air to remind me that the problems Augusta faces — the dramas, the corruption, the obstacles — are all part of the same human condition playing out from Maine to California, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
We didn’t invent the race debate in our fair community, no matter how many local mouths want to say we did. The CSRA is no better, and certainly no worse, than any other similarly sized community with the same racial dynamics we see here.
About the best thing we can hope for is honest debate between honest and law-abiding citizens who do not have a personal agenda for either selfish political or inappropriate financial gain. If we find rogues or scoundrels among us, we must distance ourselves from them and isolate them completely.
Neighbors can work together if they have a basic sense of trust between them; if there is no trust, there can be no progress. This is a universal formula that works when applied, not just here, but anywhere humans live together.
Augusta’s own history is filled with men and women of color who reached out and reached up in this ongoing struggle. I have met and come to learn about many in the 34 years I have spent in local media. The Two Great Henrys (Howard and Brigham), the Two Wonderful Washingtons (Ike and Justine), the Two Amazing Mays (Carrie and Willie), quickly come to mind! Add to the list “Papa” Richard Dent, Moses Todd, Kingsley Riley, Quincy Murphy, Wayne Howard, A.K. Hasan, and so many, many more.
They were men and women whose political views often clashed with the “establishment,” and rightfully so. But most importantly, they were a group of pioneers whose integrity and honesty were beyond reproach. They served with distinction, and their legacies continue to this day.
Currently we have two new “superstars” on the rise in local law enforcement, whose brief but groundbreaking tenures bode well for the citizens under their watch in Richmond County Marshal Ramone Lamkin and Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams.
“US versus THEM” should only apply to “citizens of good conscience” versus “bad apples.”
If you want to see where white and black leaders have recently teamed up to stand for the right thing, and the smart thing, take a good look at the alliance between Cedric Johnson and Brad Usry working together on the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority. And yes, the coalition they battled over the hideous plan to relocate the James Brown Arena to Regency Mall was also biracial. Just goes to show you “stupidity” is an equal-opportunity employer. The Augusta City Commissioners who also worked against that terrible concept, provided yet another bi-racial solution. Dilly-dilly!
Bad guys? Oh yeah, we have quite a collection. But for every Ed McIntyre or Charles Walker you can name, I will give you a Linda Schrenko, J.B. Dyches, Robin Williams, or Vicky Capetillo.
So, how about we give the race debate a break in these parts and focus on common sense solutions to the common problems that affect us all? The way we have been dealing with each other is no different than any other community of our demographic description when it comes to the political and social debates of our time. We are better at it than we used to be, but we need to improve, and keep growing.
In the CSRA, we must fight this battle one issue at a time … just like the rest of the world has to do every single day.