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