By Barney Blakeney
The report on racial disparities in Charleston County compiled by The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston offers more than statistical data about racism that has existed for generations. It also offers solutions.
The report titled “The State of Racial Disparities in Charleston County, South Carolina 2000-2015”, outlines data compiled in several categories that include Income and Poverty Levels, Gentrification and Barriers to Affordable Housing, Educational Attainment and Crime and Policing. Author Dr. Stacey Patton included recommendations for addressing the disparities found.
The report confirms what African Americans have felt and experienced, said Patton, yet the situation remains unchanged. To address them we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but we must be explicit in our commitment to addressing those disparities. There are people in place and the information is available. So there’s no excuse, she said.
The report includes recommendations specific to Charleston County and utilizes ‘toolboxes’ created by various resources to address racial disparities and structural racism as a public priority. Developing a framework that requires racial equity, inclusion and integration plans along with evaluating policies and programs which perpetuate racial and economic disparities is a place to start, the report suggests.
Addressing chronic poverty is part of the process. A minimum wage of $15 per hour leads the recommendations. Eliminating barriers to work by providing reliable transportation systems through public transportation and parking vouchers combined with conjunctive high quality affordable childcare and re-entry employment programs for those returning from incarceration enhances employability opportunities – in short, dismantle systemic barriers to hiring qualified Black candidates.
The report recommends immediate efforts to preserve existing subsidized and affordable housing and expeditiously expanding the supply. Preventing involuntary displacement of residents from neighborhoods undergoing redevelopment and gentrification is paramount as well.
As youth are our future, the report suggests investing in summer employment and extended-day learning programs. Also it suggests expanding full-day high quality pre-school programs. Students involved in juvenile justice programs should get quality instruction also, the report suggests.
Charleston County only needs the will to implement. The report, like others before it, tells us where to start, Patton said.