Charles County is not ma­jor­ity black, but it once was and will be again

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - Matt Wills, Bryan­town

I am writ­ing about an ar­ti­cle, en­ti­tled “Charles County now ma­jor­ity black,” pub­lished in the June 29 is­sue of the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent.

First, Charles County is not ma­jor­ity black as pro­claimed in the head­line. Ac­cord­ing to the United States Cen­sus Bu­reau’s 2015 es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion fig­ures, which were ref­er­enced in the ar­ti­cle, the county is 47 per­cent white, 41.3 per­cent non-His­panic white, and 44.9 per­cent black. Thus, the black pop­u­la­tion of Charles County does not con­sti­tute a ma­jor­ity be­cause it does not ex­ceed 50 per­cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion. In fact, the black pop­u­la­tion (44.9 per­cent) is less than the to­tal white pop­u­la­tion (47 per­cent).

How­ever, with the black pop­u­la­tion grow­ing and both the white and non-His­panic white pop­u­la­tions de­clin­ing (hope­fully, not due to white flight); it won’t be long be­fore Charles County is once again, as it was for over a hun­dred years, ma­jor­ity black. The black pop­u­la­tion, en­slaved and/or free, was the ma­jor­ity pop­u­la­tion (peak­ing at 65 per­cent in 1860) in Charles County, ac­cord­ing to de­cen­nial U.S. cen­sus re­ports from 1790 to 1910. Thus, the claim made in the ar­ti­cle that “…For the first time ever, the African-Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion in the county has out­grown all oth­ers” is his­tor­i­cally in­cor­rect.

I truly hope, how­ever, that the ar­ti­cle leads to more sub­stan­tive dis­cus­sions about the sta­tus of all racial/eth­nic groups and how changes in their pop­u­la­tions im­pact Charles County eco­nom­i­cally, so­cially, po­lit­i­cally and cul­tur­ally. There are many es­tab­lished so­cio-eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors that can be used to as­sess the sta­tus of the black com­mu­nity, as well as other racial/eth­nic groups, in Charles County. But, I would like to briefly fo­cus on the num­ber of blacks em­ployed in county gov­ern­ment and the num­ber of blacks hold­ing elec­tive of­fice in Charles County.

In the 2014 gen­eral gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion, blacks won eight (32 per­cent) of the 25 elec­tive of­fices on the bal­lot in Charles County. They were sher­iff, state’s at­tor­ney, one of two cir­cuit court judges (50 per­cent), two of five county com­mis­sion­ers (40 per­cent), two of three House of Del­e­gates seats (66 per­cent), and one of seven school board mem­bers (14 per­cent). Blacks, how­ever, have yet to win races for judge of or­phans court, reg­is­ter of wills, clerk of cir­cuit court, county com­mis­sioner pres­i­dent and state se­nate.

Also, it is par­tic­u­larly trou­bling that blacks are so un­der­rep­re­sented on the board of ed­u­ca­tion, which over­sees a school sys­tem that is ma­jor­ity-mi­nor­ity, re­ceives the lion’s share of county ex­pen­di­tures and is one of the largest em­ploy­ers in Charles County. Since the late Don­ald M. Wade and Charles E. Car­ring­ton won seats in 2006, two elec­tions have gone by with­out blacks win­ning more than one seat. I am hope­ful this will change in 2018 as black can­di­dates be­come more skilled at run­ning ef­fec­tive and strate­gic cam­paigns.

With re­spect to em­ploy­ment, the U.S. Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity Com­mis­sion (EEOC) re­quires the Charles County gov­ern­ment and the Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion to re­port once ev­ery two years on the com­po­si­tion of their work forces by job cat­e­gory, gen­der, race and eth­nic­ity. The county’s 2015 EEOC re­port, which in­cludes data for some of­fices it does not con­trol, shows that 20 per­cent of its full-time em­ploy­ees are black. And, the board of ed­u­ca­tion’s 2014 EEOC re­port shows that 25 per­cent of its full-time em­ploy­ees are black. The re­ports also pro­vide data on the em­ploy­ment of black and other groups by de­part­ment and job func­tion, and it is this data that clearly show dis­par­i­ties that must be ac­knowl­edged, ef­fec­tively ad­dressed, and re­ported to the com­mu­nity.

Lastly, Charles County ci­ti­zens de­serve more and eas­ier ac­cess to county and school de­part­ment EEO data. The county and school de­part­ment should rou­tinely post all manda­tory EEO re­ports to their web­sites, de­velop (us­ing the state’s an­nual EEO re­port as a guide) com­pre­hen­sive an­nual EEO re­ports, and hold an­nual hear­ings on this im­por­tant sub­ject.

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