This is in response to a recent letter in support of a private highway bisecting Johns Island, to be built at taxpayer’s expense.
The referenced limited access highway would allow swift passage for residents of the Seabrook and Kiawah island gated communities, through Johns Island without said residents having to look at poor black and Hispanic people working the fields, waiting for school buses or walking to church from their ramshackle homes.
Johns Island is my home and my community. It is a place of astounding natural beauty, rich history and quiet serenity. It is the place my husband and I came to live in 2008 when I was recruited to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston to help lead the Hollings Cancer Center.
We chose to live on Johns Island, renovate a home there and engage in the life of the community because of its rural character, its ethereal beauty and the residents of all races, faiths and walks of life.
I am an oncologist and spend 12 to 14 hours every day taking care of cancer patients, many of them your friends, neighbors and golf partners. I cherish coming home to the quiet serenity of Johns Island as a respite from my professional life.
Every day of the week, sometimes seven days a week when I am on call, I make the 45-mile round trip drive from my home off Betsy Kerrison Parkway to the Charleston Medical Center.
The drive traverses rich farmland, marshes stretching farther than the eye can see, historic sites dating to the revolutionary war and the neighborhoods of the diverse community of people who call Johns Island home.
Certainly new highways would shave a few minutes off my daily commute and make my life a bit easier. But I would never, ever trade personal convenience for a highway or any other development that would forever harm my community or the lives of my neighbors.
It is time that all the parties involved in solving the “Johns Island problem” be honest about the real issue.
Building a parkway, greenway, golfway, speedway, or whatever Seabrook and Kiawah residents choose to name it, is not about improving safety on the existing Johns Island roads.
It is about facilitating wealthy, entitled white people from Kiawah and Seabrook to speed through mostly poor black communities on Johns Island and avoid having their senses affronted or their speed inhibited.
But understand that Johns Island is rich in culture, community pride and mutual respect, and will not be divided or ruined by the cultural war being waged.
Melanie B. Thomas, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine
Medical University of South Carolina
Betsy Kerrison Parkway