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One Year After The Massacre - Racial Healing Or Business As Usual?
6/17/2016 10:30:26 AM

Emanuel AME Church
By Barney Blakeney

Friday marks one year since avowed racist Dylann Roof massacred members of Emanuel AME Church during their weekly Bible study class. The Charleston community has proclaimed that the atrocity is bringing about a ‘healing’ in race relations. Two local business leaders were asked if that healing has been extended to the economic arena.

The murder of nine victims and survival of five others who witnessed Roof’s declaration of the racial attitudes which motivated him to launch the attack on the worshippers thrust the Charleston community into admitting the reality of deep-rooted racism that depraves the community. In response, people of different races publicly initiated and announced acts to overcome the impact of that racism. A year later, the question is being asked if the healing is real or rhetoric.

Charleston’s Trident Urban League Executive Director Otha Meadows and Charleston City Councilman Perry Keith Waring were asked to respond to that question. While they had somewhat different responses, both agreed race-based disparities in the economic dynamics that shape the Charleston community minimally have been impacted by purported healing.

“The racial healing that everyone’s talking about hasn’t moved the economic needle one iota,” Meadows said. “The systemic issues that existed before the murders still exist.” He cautioned that a year after the massacre, the local community has begun to revert back to the racial behavior that spawned Dylann Roof.

“A year has gone by and people are getting back to their normal lives,” Meadows said. We’re perpetuating a broken school system and the median income for Blacks still is half that of whites. We haven’t moved very far from where we were before the tragedy.”

Waring said while little has changed in the year since the massacre at Emanuel, the conversation about racial equality has increased and taken a new tone. And in subtle ways those changes are impacting the element of race in economics.

Waring said that at the College of Charleston, where only about seven percent of students are Black, enrollment among Black students is increasing. Other local higher learning institutions are increasing their scholarships to black students also, he said. Even the conversation about affordable housing (or attainable housing) is shifting. And the move to increase the minimum wage is on a successful path. Public transportation options for workers is increasing since the massacre art Emanuel, Waring said.
All those are issues that have an economic impact, Waring said. The state legislature’s move to take down the Confederate Flag at the capitol will have a more obvious economic impact as more entities conduct business in South Carolina, he predicts, though he’s unsure if economic benefits will trickle down to the black community. And the recent $1 million donation to the International African American Museum from technology software giant Blackbaud signals a changing corporate mindset, Waring said.

Knowing the story of the Emanuel massacre reaches to the better part of humanity and gives people a reason to pause, Waring said. But as the business community reconsiders its behavior, the black community also must reconsider its behavior, Waring suggested.

“Just as other communities organize to get what they want, the African American community has to do the same thing. And it must hold its elected officials accountable - me included,” Waring emphasized. And constituents must participate in the process. “Elected officials are there to represent their constituents, but they are more effective when there is a multitude of voices behind them,” he said.

Meadows agrees. To take advantage of changing racial attitudes, the black community must organize and develop a collective agenda, he said. As billions of dollars are being injected into the regional economy, blacks are being left out. Meadows believes that’s because Blacks have no organized agenda for participation.

“We’re talking about diversity and inclusiveness, but I don’t see a plan to make that happen.” He added, “The shootings at Emanuel should not be the motivation for change, but if the tragedy didn’t happen, would we be having this conversation.”

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