The College of Charleston’s Race and Social Justice Initiative has unveiled the first detailed report on the disparities in the lives of Charleston County’s black and white residents.

Formally titled, The State of Racial Disparities in Charleston County, South Carolina 2000-2015, the Google-funded report highlights systematic barriers marginalizing African Americans in education, employment, business enterprises, housing and gentrification, policing and public health.

The report is the culmination of a multi-year research initiative undertaken by Stacey Patton, assistant professor of multimedia journalism at Morgan State University. Its data is drawn from a number of local governmental agencies and original research among activists, leaders, residents and organizations with a vested interest in Charleston County.


Patricia Williams Lessane

“Findings in this report consistently demonstrate the disparities that exist in Charleston County based on race and poverty,” said Patricia Williams Lessane, executive director of the Avery Research Center, who commissioned the report.

The State of Racial Disparities, however, is far from an inventory of grievance. “Most importantly, the report’s facts can provide the first step in framing an open and relevant conversation on exactly where inequalities in our community exist,” Williams Lessane continued. “And how best to address them.”

The report advocates, in part, that Charleston County:

  • Undertake an immediate effort to preserve existing subsidized and affordable housing;
  • Address barriers to work, including expensive and unreliable transportation systems; high-quality, yet unaffordable childcare; and business management practices that make hourly work schedules insupportable;
  • Expand the full-day, high-quality preschool program to all low-income pre-K children in the county; and,
  • Increase de-escalation training for all levels of law enforcement officers with a special focus on agencies that work with youth and young adults.

By providing policy suggestions, The State of Racial Disparities seeks to serve as a model reproducible in other communities – Baltimore, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia – beguiled by racialized violence.

Through this report, Williams Lessane aims to empower stakeholders, community leaders and local residents to forge a more equitable and inclusive Charleston County.

“May the work we do here serve as a model for the rest of the country,” she said.