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North Charleston Police
Do you think that the North Charleston Police Department has taken appropriate steps towards reform a year after the Walter Scott shooting?
"And a Time to Heal"
6/24/2016 2:15:09 PM

Patricia Bailey kneels to pray over the sidewalk memorial at the Mother Emanuel church
From The Charleston Charter, Foundation for a Moral Politics for South Carolina

This past year was supposed to be a season of healing for Charleston, South Carolina. The April 4, 2015 police killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston followed by the racist mass murder at Mother Emanuel AME Church on June 17 left local people saddened, stunned, angry, frightened, and hurting.

In response to the violence, there have been countless personal acts of kindness. The generosities and the outpouring of support expressed to the survivors and congregation members at the Emanuel Church have been praiseworthy. Well-publicized shows of unity, most notably when the South Carolina state legislature agreed to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds last summer, have also been encouraging. Numerous public conversations, lectures, and presentations aimed at improved race relations and racial reconciliation have involved diverse local constituencies.

Much of the public response to the killings, however, has been driven by the need to rebrand Charleston (i.e. “Charleston Strong!”). Many people of good will, especially public officials, have promoted a myth of "Charleston Exceptionalism," through which we take comfort in the notion that the violence was visited upon innocent Charleston like a natural disaster. They have worked hard to dissociate good Charleston from Dylann Roof's and Michael Slager’s heinous acts. Left unchallenged are the roots of their violence—the racism and poverty that remain so much a part of life in Charleston and across the state.

We propose that the attacks on Walter Scott and the Emanuel church took place along a continuum of violence, and were distinguished only by their spectacularity. Is the State of South Carolina's denial of Medicaid expansion to three hundred thousand residents—conservatively estimated to cost two hundred lives a year—any less violent than the Emanuel massacre? Where upon this continuum do we place the State's low wage job growth strategy that sells South Carolina to corporate employers on the promise of keeping working families impoverished? And what of the moral character of a state legislature that continues to defy a state Supreme Court order to provide students with a minimally adequate education?

Last September two thousand people of faith, workers, and community activists joined together for "Charleston's Days of Grace" to envision a new kind of politics for the state and region. We met in workshops and we met in protest to demand moral reforms that strike at the heart of racism and poverty. This Charleston Charter represents our shared purpose. It follows freedom fighter Jack O’Dell’s “Democracy Charter,” which he traced to the original colonial charters that led to the first American Revolution. We believe that the Charleston Charter provides the foundation for a moral politics for South Carolina—an expression of the better angels of our nature. We propose the following ten principles to frame and unite the efforts of diverse individuals and groups committed to peace and fairness in Charleston.

1: Believing that a healthy community relies on high levels of democratic participation, we support proportional representation, broad participation in the electoral process, and strong public oversight of government.

2: Our criminal justice system functions most effectively as a tool to subordinate African Americans, Latinos, and the impoverished. The logic of mass incarceration has undermined its rehabilitation and public safety objectives and we must work towards its dismantling and replacement with a system that promotes restoration for victims and offenders alike.

3: All students from early childhood through college must be guaranteed an affordable quality education as a basic human right and a public good.

4: All workers are entitled to a living wage for labor in safe workplace environments. These basic human rights are best insured by protecting workers' rights to organize themselves into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers.

5: Affordable housing shall be available for all and community resources shall be used to protect vulnerable neighborhoods from the violence of gentrification.

6: Economic development, transportation design, zoning and other governmental planning efforts should improve the quality of life for children, the elderly, the impoverished, and the disabled.

7: All citizens should have access to quality, affordable healthcare, including women’s reproductive health services.

8: All citizens who own or seek to purchase guns shall be subject to background checks, training, and liability for accidents resulting from use of their guns.

9: To promote an environment free of bigotry, violence, and intolerance, our elected leaders shall enact laws and policies that protect LGBTQ rights and the rights of all marginalized groups. Lawmakers must also stop scapegoating undocumented workers and refugees for political gain and work toward their inclusion.

10: Challenged by climate change and other perilous ecological threats, we must make it a priority to restore, preserve, and protect our natural environment as a present resource and a future legacy.

We invite you to join us in making this vision a reality through education and collective action--The Charleston Days of Grace Collective

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