Ahmaud Arberry, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd all died within months of each other. Arberry’s killing has led to murder indictments – among others – against the men who shot him. Floyd’s killing ended with the murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and in the case of Breonna Taylor, the Louisville police officer who shot and killed her is under indictment for wanton endangerment. While it is true that these and other similar occurrences throughout our country’s history served as a catalyst for the formation of Greenville’s Racial Equity and Economic Mobility Commission, its work is actually informed by startling economic data that our community must address.
Education attainment for Black residents of Greenville County is significantly less than our white counterparts (17% of Blacks hold a four-year degree, compared to 39% of whites). Annual income for area Blacks is two-thirds that of their fellow white citizens. Black males constitute a higher proportion of incarcerations compared to their demographic representation and the mortality rate for Black infants is twice that of white infants. These data points and others factor into our county achieving only 89% of the United States per capita income, resulting in a loss of $3 billion in annual economic activity for our community. For these reasons and many others, United Way of Greenville County, Greenville Chamber of Commerce and Urban League of the Upstate partnered to convene leaders and key stakeholders from throughout the community to address race-based disparities that are prohibiting our residents and community from reaching their full potential. The REEM Commission is tasked with developing strategies and partnerships that will lead to the eradication of race-based disparities and inequities impacting the Black community in Greenville County, specifically in the areas of education and workforce development, income and wealth, health and wellness, criminal justice, and community-wide learning.
Our Progress to Date
The Greenville Racial Equity and Economic Mobility Commission consists of over 30 individuals of various backgrounds, including healthcare, education, law enforcement, business, nonprofits, service, youth and aging. We realize that we cannot “boil the ocean” by addressing nationwide incidents and conditions but we have invested more than 500 collective hours gaining a deeper understanding of our own community’s race-related history and assessing its impact on the current state of our Black residents. More importantly, the Commission is developing recommendations to revisit existing systems to improve our current state and ensure a Greenville County where racial equity is absolute and prosperity is accessible for all in our Black community. When complete, the Commission will prioritize between three and five key recommendations for improvement in each of the focus areas, with an ambitious goal of sharing the recommendations with the community in December 2021.
Call to Action
The Commissioners have spent several months thinking, listening, and discussing the various strategies that can close the race-based gaps in our community. At times, the task of addressing 400 years of systems seems daunting, but the disparities are too big to ignore and the opportunity for material impact too great to forgo. While the task is hard and the vigil long and dutiful, the Commission recognizes its necessity and will persist until Greenville County is a community where all residents have fair opportunities to achieve their goals.
Visit REEMGVL.org for information about the Commission’s work and opportunities to engage. Working together, we can make Greenville County a place where race equity and prosperity is accessible to everyone.
David Lominack, South Carolina Market President, TD Bank, REEM Commission Co-Chair
Merl Code, Of Counsel, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., REEM Commission Co-Chair