After a unanimous vote from City Council at their last meeting, Spartanburg is poised to become the first city in South Carolina to join the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE).
The initiative is a national collaborative of cities seeking to accelerate progress on racial equity. GARE is a national network of governments working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. Spartanburg is the first city in South Carolina to join the organization, joining a list of 93 cities in 32 states.
The organization supports a cohort of jurisdictions that are at the forefront of work to achieve racial equity—defined as closing gaps so that race does not predict an individual’s success while also improving outcomes for all—by supporting and providing best practices, tools and resources to build and sustain current efforts and build a national movement that seeks to move beyond services and focus on changing policies, institutions, and structures. GARE further helps develop a “pathway for entry” into racial equity work for new jurisdictions from across the country and supports and builds local and regional collaborations that are data-driven, broadly inclusive, and focused on achieving racial equity.
The vote to join GARE came after a presentation to Council from Dr. Kathleen Brady, USC Upstate Vice Chancellor for External Relations and Partnerships and Executive Director of the Metropolitan Studies Institute, on the Spartanburg Racial Equity Index, a study completed earlier this year by the institute examining disparities in our community based around race (follow this link for the full report).
Among the index’s troubling findings are a vast wealth gap between white and black residents of our city, with white median household income coming in at nearly double that of black median household income, $48,275 compared to $24,336. The poverty rate for black Spartanburg residents is also 31 percent, more than double that of white residents at 12.7 percent.
The report also showed a stark difference in infant mortality and life expectancy, with black residents of Spartanburg County more than twice as likely to lose an infant in the first year of life compared to white residents and that white residents from some areas of the city will live 13 years longer than black residents from areas just a few miles away.
When asked by Council why Spartanburg is the first city to join GARE, City Manager Chris Story citied innovative work already underway from groups like Spartanburg Academic Movement and the broad community partnership working to redevelopment the Northside as reasons for the distinction. “To be honest, I think Spartanburg is working deeper on some stuff than the state on a lot of fronts. I think some of the efforts we’ve talked about tonight are as good as exists in South Carolina,” Story offered.
Still, Story acknowledged the size of the challenge the City and its partners are undertaking in tackling a systemic problem as entrenched and pervasive as racial disparity in recommending Council vote to approve GARE membership. “It’s going to require our continued active participation for a very long time in very hard ways to move this data in the direction we’d all like to see it go.”
Prepared by the City of Spartanburg.