Charleston Forum survey examines stark racial differences in everyday Lowcountry life

The Charleston Forum's survey highlights differing viewpoints between black and white residents

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The Charleston Forum held its annual conversation in a live streamed panel on June 14 - FACEBOOK LIVE
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  • The Charleston Forum held its annual conversation in a live streamed panel on June 14
Results from a residential survey conducted by The Charleston Forum are now available in a 27-page report compiled by the Center for Research and Public Policy (CRPP), which analyzes the results of 705 completed online surveys from residents in Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties.

The survey was conducted to collect opinions from the community on race relations across a variety of topics, including policing, the judicial process, education, housing, business and willingness to engage in community discussions.

“The one thing that we haven't learned in the years so far that we thought we should dig into is what attitudes or perspectives are there that people are a little bit apprehensive about sharing in public …” said committee member Brian Duffy. “And, are those things holding us back from making progress together?”



“We engaged the CRPP to design and conduct a forum for us of residents in the tri-county area to find out what we think we are — who we think we are — on these issues of race,” Duffy explained, “and to shine a light now in this 350th year on our collective journey on where we are and where we want to be.”
The Charleston Forum Tri-County Survey 2020 The Charleston Forum The overwhelming majority of those surveyed (89.8 percent) reported a very good (28.5 percent) or good (61.3 percent) quality of life in the tri-county area, but there were some brow-raising discrepancies between white and African American respondents. As with any survey, the results are a snapshot of a specific time and could change.

About two-thirds of white respondents marked that they believed overall race relations in the area have either improved, or stayed at acceptable levels over the last 10 years, where just over half of African American respondents held the same belief.

Even greater differences in agreement were found in more specific statements on policing in the area.
  • 40.6 percent of white respondents believe most officers racially profile when deciding to stop motorists, compared to 73.5 percent of African American respondents.
  • 46.5 percent of white respondents believe officers in the tri-county area treat everyone fairly and evenly, compared to 32.5 percent of African American respondents.
  • 33.1 percent of white respondents have or know someone who has experienced abuse by police officers, compared to 57.8 percent of African American respondents.
Other highlights from the survey results include responses to questions regarding economic opportunities and job discrimination, with African American respondents believing that these systems in the tri-county area are 2-4 times more likely broken than working well.
  • 20.5 percent of African American respondents said employment and wages are working well, compared to 39.7 percent who believe they are broken.
  • 11.4 percent of African American respondents said affirmative action efforts are working well, compared to 31.9 percent who believe they are broken.
  • 12.7 percent of African American respondents said minority community investment programs are working well, compared to 46.9 percent who believe they are broken.
In all categories, the disparities between white and African American respondents show a community of people of color who believe they are being left behind their white neighbors by community leaders and other officials; meanwhile, white respondents are less likely to see problems in the same areas.
The Charleston Forum was founded after the Emanuel killings to further conversations around race in the Holy City - SAM SPENCE
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  • The Charleston Forum was founded after the Emanuel killings to further conversations around race in the Holy City
“Now we need to discuss where we aren’t achieving these goals and why we aren’t, and that’s what the Forum contends to do in the coming months,” Duffy said. “We are going to go to policy makers, stakeholders, and the constituents of those policy makers and find out what’s not working, what needs to be done.”

Duffy said the Charleston Forum will need the public to get involved at this point by voicing their opinions and building support for the policy proposals that will come out of these results. More than that, those looking to do more can visit the Charleston Forum website and find their active non-profit partners to get involved there

Duffy discussed the results of the survey with panelists Dr. Josie White, Dr. Bernard Powers, Dr Geoffrey Alpert and K.J Kearney, as well as Brian Hicks from the Post and Courier, via Zoom June 14. The discussion was moderated by John Simpkins, president of MDC.

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