By Brian M. Howle
(Note: Although this was written in May of 1999, it is still applicable to the mindset of the current elected officials of the City of Myrtle Beach. This Mayor’s administration and City Council passed a series of laws that effectively ran off motorcyclists of all races, creeds, religions and make of bikes from within the fair boundaries of Myrtle Beach proper. These range from aggravation laws (helmets required within the city despite the SC state law that does not) to Marxist control laws (exhaust system decible levels and examination of motorcycle original statistical information plates to confirm adherence to City code) to flat-out strong-arm tactics (denying vendors permits or limiting public access, or astronomically increasing vendor fees and reducing their allowed space). Please note: These tactics are used ONLY by the City of Myrtle Beach; NMB and the South Strand (Surfsides, Garden City, Murrells Inlet, Litchfield & Pawleys Island) do NOT endorse Myrtle Beach’s view of the bikers and the loss of the enormous revenue they generate for the local businesses AND municipalities of the Grand Strand.)
The last “braps” from the few remaining motorcyclcs become fading echoes as the massive crowds of Memorial Day Weekend ‘99 disperse and retreat to their hometowns. Our little resort town exhales a collective sigh of relief as the final hours of the traditional summer kick-off holiday draw to a close, leaving behind an avalanche of trash and debris as the only physical reminders of the much anticipated event.
And now we can start to evaluate the impact and the statistics, to assess the pros and cons, and to come to terms with the myths and the reality.
Or do we really want to?
As a life-long native of the Strand, I am very much aware of the economic DNA of our Golden Goose, and all the wonderful things associated with it. Despite our small town roots, the lifeblood of an increasing number of people depends on the unending waves of humanity that make the Strand their vacation destination. But if we’re really serious about maintaining those waves, it would behoove us all to hunker down and stare the demon in the eye. And this will, in all likelihood, be the most difficult task any of us could ever undertake, because it means looking in the mirror.
In the aftermath of previous Memorial Day weekend celebrations, some have chosen the “sky is falling” approach to confronting the masses. Under the influence of youthful inexperience or youthful ignorance, the Mayor of Myrtle Beach called upon the Governor to dispatch the National Guard to quell the impending apocalypse that he envisioned to unfold. Regardless of whether his decision was a result of political considerations or a matter of conscience, Gov. Hodges is to be commended for his decision not to pursue such a reactionary response.
Now that it’s over, let’s tally up the results and compare them with other events:
• Number of bike-related deaths from MD Bike Weekend: None.
• Number of bike-related deaths from Harley Weekend: One.
• Number of arrests resulting from public intoxication during Harley?Weekend and MD?Bike Weekend: Full statistics not yet released. (Needless to say, common sense would dictate that in both instances, the number is probably pretty high).
• Percentage of the population exasperated with traffic tie-ups from both events: 100%.
• Percentage of the population left nearly stone deaf from both events: 100%.
• Percentage of exposed gluteus maximuses: 100% (female riders only) Note: Comparison to Harley Week in this category would be unfair due to genetic disposition.
• Percentage of population flagrantly prejudiced: Unknown.
Oops. There it is.
Every reason imaginable has been used by officials, residents and media to make the case against the Atlantic Beach Bike Rally continuing as an annual event. That is, every reason but the one that is really the heart of the matter.
Despite incidents of similar behaviors, nobody seems to mind the overwhelmingly white Harley Week.
Despite incidents of similar behavior, no one seems to mind the overwhelmingly white invasion of golfers.
Despite incidents of similar behavior, nobody seems to mind the overwhelmingly white hordes of college students on spring break and summer vacation.
Coincidentally, no one seems to mind the overwhelmingly African American, Hispanic or Asian legions of workers who cook the meals, wash the dishes, scrub the floors, make the beds, collect the garbage and generally perform all the menial labor necessary for all of these groups – and the locals – to enjoy the good life at the beach.
This isn’t confined to the Grand Strand, or Horry County, or South Carolina, or the South, or the United States. It’s just a sad fact that anywhere there’s a white majority, you can bet that there’s an unspoken mood of uneasiness when any minority begins to congregate in large numbers.
Deny it all you want – over the last three weeks I’ve witnessed and overhead the whispers of fear from one end of the Strand to the other. Businesses have chosen to close their doors for the duration of Memorial Day Weekend. Food and beverages have been stockpiled so that there’s no need to venture out of the house. Mini-vacations and long-overdue visits to family and friends away from the beach have been scheduled. The only other event to trigger a similar response, that I’ve witnessed, is the impending arrival of the dreaded hurricane.
So, why don’t we just come clean and call a spade a spade, so to speak. If we’re hell bent on keeping the Coppertone folks behind the wheel of their Mercedes and Lincolns (hey, isn’t it ironic, don’t ya think?), then let’s get serious about it. I mean, if we can put white men on the moon, surely we can keep the Strand light and bright. I don’t claim to have all the answers, of course, but here are a few thoughts for our leaders to chew on:
• Since we’re already in the process of building new roads to the beach, simply install toll booths and impose a surcharge on all Japanese-made motorcycles.
• Pass new zoning laws requiring all Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises to be located west of the Waterway. Amend the law to include roadside produce stands (watermelon vendors only).
• Further amend above law to include all Taco Bell restaurants.
• Ban the sale of all 40 oz. malt liquor and MD 20/20, as well as Kool and Newport cigarettes.
• Further amend above law to include tequila and Corona beer.
• Make possession of any radio, tape deck, CD player or boom box with a power rating of more than 10 watts a capital offense.
• Require all non-whites complying with above laws to swim across the Waterway before admitting access.
• Amend above law to exclude Hispanics; replace with requirement that no vehicle contains more than 4 blackvelvet paintings of Jesus.
• Further amend above two laws to exclude Asians; replace with restrictions against anyone scoring over 1400 on S.A.T. exams.
• While we’re at it, enact zoning laws restricting the number of beachwear stores to only one within a 15-mile radius.
• Abolish the sale or possession of all Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Melissa Etheridge, Indigo Girl or Justin Bieber albums, tapes and CDs.
• File a class-action suit against God for creating a rainbow.
• Allow the “He needed killin’” defense in confrontations that begin with “Yo, Yo, Yo”. “Que pasa?” or “Well, the way we did it up North …”
Well, I’m sure some of vou can extend this list on and on. But until the powers that be consider these options seriously, we should all extend an enormous debt of gratitude to the tireless efforts of the mini-army of law enforcement, the Friendship Committee, and all the normal folks out there who accept the world in which we live, with all of its imperfections.
Because it is the existence of these people that, in the final analysis, will prevent the Grand Strand from being compared to South Africa’s “Sun City.” And for some, replacing ignorance and prejudice with enlightenment and compassion will be too much to ask. But you could at least try. In the meantime, pass the Coppertone.
It would be mighty white of you.
The previous article originally appeared in Alternatives NewsMagazine, June 3, 1999.