Taking down the Confederate flag is only the first step

Susanna Hegner

It’s time to address racism and inequality in the South.

The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation applauds the South Carolina legislature’s decision to remove the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds. The hate crime in Charleston focused the national spotlight on racism in the South; it also forced Southerners to consider the ways we commemorate history and how our symbols are perceived. Recognizing the power and pain inherent in an emblem of our embattled and oppressive past is an encouraging step in addressing racism and inequality. 

The Foundation’s mission is to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice in the South. We support organizations and networks that work across racial, economic and political differences to encourage opportunity and foster fairness.

In South Carolina, that’s a long list. The South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development brings public and private partners together to invest in underserved areas across the state. SCACED worked closely with Sen. Clementa Pinckney on microenterprise development, healthy food initiatives and legislation benefitting community development financial institutions.

“His district covers a number of counties that are among the poorest in the state, largely African-American, and having low achievements in education, health disparities, economic disparities,” said SCACED President and CEO Burnett Mazyck. “He was very interested in programs and resources that would support economic initiatives and prosperity where traditional programs don’t work.”

Another example of this kind of multi-strategy economic development work is the South Carolina Community Loan Fund, which offers financing and technical assistance for affordable housing and business development. Through education and legal services, the Center for Heirs Property Preservation helps families retain their land, gain sustainable economic benefits from it and create generational wealth.  

The long-term solutions to South Carolina’s deep challenges will be realized by engaging local people, implementing better policies and creating more opportunities to earn and develop assets. Furling the flag is the right thing to do, but it’s just a start. Increasing avenues to participation in the public process, supporting local entrepreneurs and investing in strong, collaborative organizations are clear ways to honor the legacy of Rev. Pinckney, who dedicated his life to creating a brighter future for all.




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