By Merl F. Code, Ogletree Deakins, and David Lominack, TD Bank, REEM Commission co-chairs
The tragic shooting at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston. The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. When it comes to the work of racial equity, events like these bring racism and inequity to the forefront, spurring us to say, “Enough is enough.”
As a community, we have an opportunity to do better. Though the disparities that Black and brown communities are facing in our country are at a critical point, together we can create positive change.
We, along with committed community leaders, formed the Racial Equity and Economic Mobility (REEM) Commission to convene around matters of racial inequities, social justice and disparities in key areas that are negatively impacting the Black community in Greenville County.
Our goals include:
Gathering ideas to improve equity and economic mobility in our community;
Identifying our top priorities; and
Establishing clear community goals to create necessary change.
Data shows us alarming disparities that negatively impact our economy and workforce, the educational achievement of our children, the health and well-being of our neighbors and the overall quality of life in our community.
For example, Black household income in Greenville County is 56% of white household income, which is worse than both the state and U.S. averages; the infant mortality rate is twice as high for Black babies compared to white babies; and 54% of white students meet or exceed the eighth grade math standard, compared to 17% of Black students and 29% of Hispanic students.
These disparities don’t just impact some of us — they impact all of us.
We have the opportunity to lead in ways that our community has never been led before. We have the opportunity to catalyze and revolutionize. We have the opportunity to create change with the Black community, which is long overdue. And perhaps most importantly, we have the opportunity to act.
This work will not be easy. We must get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Addressing systemic barriers will only come after we have a deep understanding of both the current conditions — the data, Greenville County’s history, the community’s challenges — and the shared aspirations of those most directly experiencing economic and racial inequities. We must move aggressively toward influencing solutions and outlining meaningful measurements of change to ensure that all area residents have unobstructed opportunities for safety, justice and success.
For the next six months, commissioners representing various interests, expertise and industries from throughout the county will engage in the challenging work of studying and reflecting on Greenville County’s racial inequities and the community partnerships needed to create solutions. The recommendations, strategies, and action steps that stem from this work will be presented back to the community in early 2021.
By coming together to listen, analyze, understand and learn, we can start to heal and move forward in more equitable ways for everyone in Greenville County.
Advancing racial equity is an investment in people and in our shared economic future. We invite you to join us in the essential work of creating a stronger, more just and more equitable community for all who live here.
For more information, visit www.unitedwaygc.org/rei.