Photo Credit: Jeff Siner The Charlotte Observer via AP
Charlotte is not unique in tackling the social and economic challenges of today’s times. Our city’s journey is no different than the one facing many of our nation’s largest cities.
What is different? How we seek to shape our story— to not allow it to stand as one of division and inequity.
It could be said that our first moment of truth came with the 2014 Harvard/UC Berkley study that ranked our city last place for one’s ability move out of poverty, if they are born into it.
Our 50th out of 50 designation put a spotlight on the two sides of Charlotte, one of a booming, growing city attracting big business, global residents, where prosperity is realized under a gleaming skyline or well-manicured tree lined streets. The other side of Charlotte doesn’t make postcards or billboards. It’s the images of blighted homes, abandoned warehouses—where families who have lived in our city for generations find prosperity out of their reach.
Organizations in Charlotte responded by forming the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force in 2014 to research the conditions that create economic, educational, social, housing and racial inequities in our community and make recommendations for how we might address them.
Our second moment of truth came in September 2016 with the events surrounding the officer-involved shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott. During that time many in our community expressed frustration with community issues they felt were long ignored.
Charlotte City Council responded by penning its Community Letter, with a commitment to address issues related to policing, housing and good paying jobs. Other ideas sprung up from care and concern. City council and many others committed—but in a community of more than 800,000, it will take everyone to change the way we think, feel and how we treat one another.
Everyone has a role to play. Everyone can commit to the work of changing our city to make it better for all. Together, we can shape our story as the community that committed to the change we want to see.
There is no easy path along this journey, but we all must rise to the challenge and commit. That is the only way we can work to bridge the inequities.
How do we feel about where we are today? What are we willing to do? What will we commit both as individuals and as a community to stand together for a better Charlotte?