by Greg Palast
South Carolina 2000: Six hundred police in riot gear facing a few dozen angry-as-hell workers on the docks of Charleston. In the darkness, rocks, clubs and blood fly. The cops beat the crap out of the protesters. Of course, it’s the union men who are arrested for conspiracy to riot. And of course, of the five men handcuffed, four are Black. The prosecutor: a White, Bible-thumping Attorney General running for Governor. The result: a state ripped in half – White versus Black.
South Carolina 2008: On Saturday, the Palmetto State may well choose our President, or at least the Democrat’s idea of a President. According to CNN and the pundit-ocracy, the only question is, Will the large Black population vote their pride (for Obama) or for “experience” (Hillary)? In other words, the election comes down to a matter of racial vanity.
The story of the dockworkers charged with rioting in 2000 suggest there’s an awfully good reason for Black folk to vote for one of their own. This is the chance to even the historic score in this land of lingering Jim Crow where the Confederate Flag flew over the capital while the longshoreman faced Southern justice.
But maybe there’s more to South Carolina’s story than Black and White.
Let’s re-wind the tape of the 2000 battle between cops and Black men. It was early that morning on the 19th of January when members of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422 “shaped up” to unload a container ship which had just pulled into port. It was hard work for good pay. An experienced union man could earn above $60,000 a year.
In this last hold-out of the Confederacy, it was one of the few places a Black man could get decent pay. Or any man.
That day, the stevedoring contractor handling the unloading decided it would hire the beggars down the dock, without experience or skills – and without union cards – willing to work for just one-third of union scale.
That night, union workers – Black, White, Whatever – fought for their lives and livelihoods.