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Riley’s C.R.A.P. – hypocrisy trapping area minorities

Lee Walton

The Mayor’s recent efforts to launch his latest Charleston Racism Awareness Plan (CRAP) is just another of his covert schemes to keep area minorities locked in low-wage, subsistence jobs essential to his tourism based “Plantation Economy”. Built upon the backs of working-class minorities in the City of Charleston, Riley’s unswerving focus upon the tourism industry to generate tax revenues is essential to feeding his insatiable appetite for one world-class grandiose project or festival after another. Charleston’s “Plantation Economy” depends upon a near minimum wage, unskilled minority labor force to maintain a competitive edge in the current national and international tourist destination market. Without this large, cheap, undereducated labor force, the cost of catering to Charleston’s primary revenue generator would loose much of its competitive advantage, and with it the tens of millions in tax revenues needed to keep up the charade.

Row upon row of East Side subsidized, crime-ridden ghetto housing units have taken the places of quaint rows of sharecropper tenant cabins of the last century. Changing cotton bed sheets, tablecloths and napkins in upscale Peninsula hotels, restaurants, and B&B’s have replaced picking cotton in the fields. Sweeping and mopping restaurant floors have succeeded chopping weeds between rows of vegetables, but the end results are the same – it’s still a plantation built on the backs of the underprivileged.

Generation after generation of local minorities have been trapped in low-wage, dead-end hospitality industry jobs that offer little hope for bettering their standard of living and that of their children. Charleston’s public housing and welfare largess have destroyed incentive and motivation to succeed by one’s “ability and effort”. Gentrification and redevelopment of “economically depressed neighborhoods” from Calhoun north to The Neck, primarily as Tax Increment Financed Districts, have also forced hundreds of minority home-owners to lose modest, but mortgage-free homes, often retained in the same family for generations. City backed redevelopment initiatives like Longview and Magnolia in the Ashley Neck and new, trendy, albeit mostly vacant, residential developments between Spring and Cannon are but a few recent examples of projects that pushed many working-class minority families over-the edge and out of the Peninsula.

In the nearly four decades that J. Pericles Riley has ruled the City of Charleston with near dictatorial powers, more minority families have been adversely impacted by the unintended (or Heaven forbid, covertly intended) consequences of his economic revitalization and urban planning policies than at any other period in recent history. Yes, there are many others to share the shame and blame of discrimination in Charleston, but none with the political influence and economic power of Riley. His shameless hypocrisy wears thinner and thinner with each successive self-serving speech.

Nonetheless, with Riley’s latest Charleston Racism Awareness Plan soon to be unveiled, there’ll be a lot more C.R.A.P. coming out of City Hall.

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