Charleston City Council votes to establish racial conciliation commission

Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 5:17 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2022 at 4:17 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston City councilmembers voted 9-4 to establish a commission that would address equity and inclusion issues in the city.

Councilmembers voted on a third and final reading of the Human Affairs and Racial Conciliation during a meeting at city hall Wednesday night.

It will be responsible for promoting equity, inclusion and racial conciliation by making recommendations to the mayor and council. It doesn’t have the power to pass laws.

“It’s really up to the new commission,” Councilmember Jason Sakran said. “It’s going to be a diverse group with diverse viewpoints from around the community to come together to really uncover and investigate some of the racial disparities we have here in Charleston.”

The commission was passed along with amendments from Councilmember Peter Shahid, which, he said, would narrow down what it could do.

The amendments also define “equity” as guaranteeing fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement while trying to take down barriers that have prevented some groups from fully participating.

Three council members will take part in the commission, while the others nominate a person from their district to represent their area.

“We’re saying very clearly, we’re not going to defund the police,” Shahid said. “We’re not going to teach critical race theory. We’re not going to encourage slave reparations, and we’re not going to take any monuments down. If we do anything at all, we’ll probably erect new monuments in the community. That’s where we stand with this thing, and I hope that people understand that.”

The commission was passed for the first time in council in December and advanced during a second reading in January. It was created on a standing basis, meaning the council has to renew it every three years.

Shahid added that the council wanted to hear from their constituents before making their final decision.

Councilmember Caroline Parker was one of four members who voted against the commission. She said she voted no because of concerns with some of the recommendations from the original commission report published in August 2021, but she said she is ready to listen.

“I will obviously take recommendations from the commission when they come to council and review them and learn and grow,” Parker said.

She said the best way to make sure people are getting equal opportunities in Charleston is through community engagement.

“I’ve already been in contact with communities as to how we can help support that,” Parker said. “Just kind of get everybody involved and find a way to do that. All of our kids go to school together.”

As for Shahid, he believes the commission can bring answers to questions that have loomed over the city for years.

“Some things have not changed in the past 50 years for the Black community,” Shahid said. “Those disparities need to be addressed. Why are those disparities still existing? How can we address those things?”

The commission has five months to bring recommendations to the mayor and council.

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