Race card flung at Joel Lourie, of all people

Lourie at his recent retirement party.

Lourie at his recent retirement party.

As a smart friend of mine once said somewhat hopelessly, she feared that a thousand years from now, historians would look back and say, “The United States was a noble experiment, but they never got over that slavery thing.”


Sen. John Scott

In the Midlands, in South Carolina, across the nation, there are a lot of issues that turn largely, if not primarily, on race. On the local level, race is the (usually) unstated pivot point on attitudes concerning, for instance, local school districts.

Some people still think of Richland One and Richland Two as the black district and the white district, although perception is catching up to reality, which has changed dramatically. District One has long been a black power base — with white influence clustered into a few zones within the district (Dreher, A.C. Flora). Now there is a struggle for the future of District Two that is largely rooted in racial identity.

Elsewhere — such as with the Richland County election and recreation commissions — race is a widely understood subtext, shaping viewpoints but not openly acknowledged. Until now.

Apparently, the defenders of the status quo at the Richland County Recreation Commission — a legislative special purpose district with a growing reputation that brings to mind the routine corruption on “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire” — feel backed into a corner.

How else to explain Sen. John Scott and Rep. Leon Howard suggesting there is something racist in the white majority of the county legislative delegation demanding accountability from the commission?

Sen. Scott even had the nerve to bring the notoriously, spectacularly incompetent Lillian McBride (of the election commission meltdown) into the equation, as though that helped his case:

“This is the second time the same group has made an inquiry as it relates to an African-American director,” Sen. John Scott said, referring to then-Richland County election director Lillian McBride.

Sen. Joel Lourie, one of the letter’s authors, said Scott’s suggestion is offensive….

And well he should say that. Sen. Lourie, I mean.


Rep. Leon Howard

It’s a sad day when Joel Lourie has to defend his good name in the twilight of his Senate career, saying, “‘My family and I have a very proud record of community and race relations for the last 50 years.”

Indeed they have. Sen. Darrell Jackson has a Senate seat because Joel’s father, Isadore, gave up his seat in order to let an African-American have a shot at it.

And Joel’s record as a champion of social justice is impeccable — as is those of others being smeared by innuendo, such as Reps. James Smith and Beth Bernstein.

The saga of the recreation commission was sordid and shameful enough. Messrs. Scott and Howard have made it more so, by choosing such an inexcusable manner of defending it.

50 thoughts on “Race card flung at Joel Lourie, of all people

    1. Barry

      Flight is already taking place in large numbers.

      I had a handful of close friends move this summer. My wife’s school in Ruchland Two lost more teachers at the end of school last year (May2016) than anytime in their history.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      Well, the sort of white people who fly away are already elsewhere, outside the remote suburbs like Blythewood, and the red county of Lexington. No one in the central city is going to move because there are some black kleptocrats on some special purpose districts or even the school board. You guys want to fly to Ridgeway or Camden or Newberry?–fine.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        I don’t care if the kleptocrats are black, white, blue, or green. Can we just get people on these smaller boards and commissions who won’t steal?

        If I ever run for any local office my bumper sticker would just be “Bryan Caskey – You may not agree with me, but at least I ain’t gonna steal money.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          First off, there are no blue or green people. Second, you are well-off enough that stealing is way less appealing.
          My goal is to do away with single-county special purpose districts. They are not constitutional under state law, nor accountable in any meaningful way.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I watched it again over the weekend.

              I still don’t know what they did to get rich at the end. I don’t think I ever will.

              Oh, I might for about five minutes, when I read an explanation online.

              But then I’ll immediately forget. Because my brain doesn’t WANT information like that. My brain is too busy safeguarding such items as precise quotes from “Trading Places”…

          1. Tex

            So did I read this correctly, that if you aren’t well off stealing is a more appropriate act? Can that be used as a defense for the guy who broke into a friend’s house a few months ago? Sort of a 180 of the affluenza defense?

      2. Doug Ross

        “Remote” suburbs… that’s a good one. I can be in Five Points in about 15 minutes.

        Anyway, I live in a new neighborhood in Blythewood that is mostly black families… I’m guessing a lot of them chose Richland 2 and Blythewood for the same reasons we did. Bigger yards, less traffic, less crime, marginally better schools than Richland 1 (our worst is probably about the middle for Richland 1).

        1. Tex

          15 minutes, I’m 30 minutes away and wished I had bought further out. Of course I went to the northwest.

      3. Tex

        “You guys want to fly to Ridgeway or Camden or Newberry?–fine.”

        Columbia is a good place to work, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

        1. Barry

          Have you read about all the shootings just in the last week or so In Columbia?


          Be careful and avoid if possible.

            1. Barry

              Yep, that makes sense. I am the problem.

              I don’t shoot people and I don’t live in Columbia.

      4. Tex

        “No one in the central city is going to move because there are some black kleptocrats on some special purpose districts or even the school board.”

        Thinking about this statement, I believe you are wrong. This was just one of the issues that made me leave Shandon. High taxes, high fees, postage stamp sized lots, no or single car garages only for most homes, homeless roaming neighborhoods stealing and relieving themselves in your yard (not just #1), corruption in the city and county were others. I now love living in my larger house for less money, larger property, lower taxes, lower fees, newer house, neighbor’s houses aren’t within an arm’s length away from mine, the only thing relieving themselves in my yard are dogs or animals who were here before we were… there are dozens of more reasons why not living in Columbia is better. It’s worth the 45 minute commute.

        The only thing I liked was the trash pick up where you could leave literally anything on the curb and it’d be picked up. That alone was not enough to keep me there.

  1. John Boudreaux

    We must, for the good of every one of us
    quit using the race card ever, anywhere for
    any reason . Never , NEVER should any man, woman or child ever think that way. If the thought enters our mind ,DROP
    IT, and swallow the sinful thought and ask God to help us never think that way or talk that way again.He will help me, He will help you.One by one we will change our
    sinful thoughts and things we say !
    Let’s each try and support each other in this Godly effort. We all know that God made us equal in His Holy image!

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Um, the “race card” is played by people who are members of underprivileged “races.” A white person can’t play the “race card.” Some people may be too quick to use the race card as a shield for their bad behavior, but that doesn’t invalidate the racism experienced by so many others. See the recent report on the treatment of blacks by the Baltimore Police Department, for example.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Don’t have to. I already saw “The Wire.” Or the first three seasons, anyway.

        Don’t worry. I’m sure Mayor Carcetti will get all that straightened out…

      2. Doug Ross

        I think I SHOULD have the right to play the race card. I live in a majority black neighborhood, my kids attended majority black public schools, I have usually been the only white guy on my projects at work in the past decade. It’s a struggle being a minority but I get up every day and try my best.

      3. Tex

        So the race card is sort of like the “N” word.

        How long ago was that Civil Rights Movement?

        What percentage of the Baltimore PD is black? I’m guessing it’s more than you’d suspect.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Yes, and just because Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump are female doesn’t mean Donald Trump isn’t a misogynist.

  2. Ralph Hightower

    Ron Aken of Quorum Columbia has information about the ties of two from the General Assembly that support Richland County Recreation Commission director James Brown.
    Senator Scott received free facility rentals from RCRC for campaign use. That sounds like it should be filed with the State Ethics Commission.
    Representative Howard got his church cleaned for free and board members got free tires and oil changes.

      1. Doug Ross

        It is truly mind boggling that all these accusations are out there and NOTHING HAPPENS.

        What is law enforcement waiting for? A signed confession?

        1. Mark Stewart

          It’s a legit point. Just because the legislature created a system of political immunity for these asinine SPD’s does not mean that law enforcement is similarly constrained from acting on criminal complaints. If RCSD won’t do it, SLED should. Sometimes things go beyond regular political horse-trading and wrangling. Clearly, this is one of those instances.

          Indictments and arrests do not appear out of order here. This is also a chance for Alan Wilson to redeem himself as AG and authorize a state grand jury. Hopefully, he already has done so…

          And the idea that this is about race is just stupid deflection. I am quite sure that the black citizens of Richland County desire corruption-free government just as much as the white residents. Everyone suffers when corruption is allowed to fester. Everyone is victimized by it, in whatever form it takes; just ask the people who live and work around the Town of Lexington. Everyone has to demand accountability for anything to change.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yes, everyone wants honest government.

            But there are SOME black politicians who really resent that post-Watergate morality came along right at the moment when black folks were coming into their own in politics. It was pretty much simultaneous. The first black lawmakers in SC after Reconstruction were elected just as white politics was getting cleaned up, and everyone was demanding honesty and accountability — and taking a dim view of the time-honored practice of patronage, which had been accepted as a matter of course not that long before.

            The black pols I’m thinking of grew up watching white pols get away with murder, and they really resented (and in some cases still resent) that THEY weren’t allowed to get away with jaywalking. And they took it personally. Or at least, racially. And a lot of their constituents agreed, seeing white society come down on their elected representatives for things they believed white politicians got away with. Which is one reason why you see some crooked black pols get re-elected repeatedly. Because their constituents didn’t like their representatives getting picked on by the white criminal justice system, the white newspaper (a category that includes The State), etc.

            As I.S. Leevy Johnson (I think) joked after the 1976 election, when a Carter campaign official said positions in the new administration would not be filled by a “smoke-filled room,” that hiring would be transparent and accountable, “We just got into the room, and we just started smoking!”

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              By the way, you see the same thing with some white voters, who complain that their favorite pols are being prosecuted for something “all of them (politicians) do.”

              It’s just that with (some) black voters, the thought takes the form of “White politicians do it and nobody prosecutes THEM.”…

            2. Mark Stewart

              And that itself is an asinine way of looking at the world. If you are only running to fleece your constituents; maybe they ought to consider that fact at the polls?

              Only the slimy try to obfuscate corruption within political power. They are two entirely (almost) different things. “Stacking” agencies with competent employees and office holders who reflect the electing society is not at all the same thing as appointing the corrupt and self-serving. Somewhere along the way in Richland County (and many other places, including in LexCo), that distinction has been lost to too many.

              The simple fact of the matter is that the RCRC (and of course too the RC Elections office), and its protectors and apologists, is doing the most harm to the black community. That’s the nasty, unvarnished truth.

                1. Tex

                  Anyone know where I can get some free tires and an oil change? I used to go to this place in Richland County on Sunday afternoons but they seemed to have stopped offering these services.

            3. Lynn Teague

              I routinely hear about fear of being crucified for jaywalking. And yet, I’ve seen no one get in criminal trouble on ethics charges who was just doing the equivalent of jaywalking. I have, however, seen people plead to relatively small scale offenses rather than other far more serious charges that could have been brought if even half of what I heard first-hand from responsible people was true.

            4. Barry

              Leon Howard has been in office for 21 years. If he hasn’t fleeced the system yet, it’s time to move on and let someone else try.

              Whatever excuse you want to make for him, accusing Lourie of racism is pathetic. Howard is a coward.

  3. Karen Pearson

    It’s unfortunate. When (especially) black politicians play the race card in a patently absurd situation such as this one, it simply reinforces the view among many white people (Trump’s followers?) that racial discrimination really doesn’t exist and that it’s just an excuse to get away with criminal behavior.

  4. Lynn Teague

    Senator Scott has been the most persistent opponent of reforming SC ethics laws to insure that ethics complaints against legislators are investigated by independent professionals.

  5. OK

    After 10 years of volunteering at Friarsgate, a RCRC facility, I was asked to sit on the RCRC Board. This was several years ago. The experience was horrible; the divisiness was palpable. My aim was trying to watch the spending of everyone’s taxes. I did not last long. Today’s politics are disturbing. We need honesty and individuals wanting to serve the public good.

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