When I decided to go to Clemson University for graduate school, I was concerned about what I would find when I arrived. Armed with an unnecessarily smug Virginia attitude, I headed south. It was perfectly fine. Though Clemson did not have the patrician air of Hampden-Sydney College, it provided me with a great academic experience, and I have friends from that era that I continue to cherish.
Yet, when I ventured beyond the campus and encountered the rest of South Carolina, I was troubled. I could see the racial and class distinctions all around. I saw poverty, black and white, that I never hope to see again. The battle of the Confederate Battle Flag over the statehouse was just getting warm. It struck me that people here knew their respective place within the hierarchy. Most of the black folks I met (native South Carolinians) longed to leave for Atlanta or Charlotte or DC. Most of the white folks I met (native South Carolinians) looked forward to building their lives right there in South Carolina. I found that so fascinating, because it spoke to how those students felt about futures at home.
Only when I heard Ty'Sheoma Bethea's story as told by BHO at the "not SOTU (State of the Union) address," was I reminded of the things I saw in South Carolina. It made me sad. But it was this story done on CNN that made me even sadder still. The lawmakers in South Carolina dropped the ball. Though I do not know who runs things in Dillon, SC, it makes no sense that an open school should be in such a terrible condition.
Gov. Sanford's political stand not to accept stimulus funding that could go to help meet the needs of Ty'Sheoma's school is insulting (not to mention the needs of the poorest in the state overall). Maybe Sanford and his supporters need to be reminded that the school Ty'Sheoma attends is the same school Ben Bernanke, the current Chair of the Federal Reserve, attended. And that is something that I remembered about South Carolina that I hope will go away one day: race and class still matter.