Almost 50 years after the death of Martin Luther King Jr., South Carolina still lags behind other states in terms of racial integration. However, the Palmetto State is making progress on racial issues.
South Carolina was ranked 34th in the country in terms of racial integration by the website WalletHub, which measured racial gaps in employment, poverty, education and health across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
In terms of racial progress, South Carolina did better, landing at No. 21.
Across Columbia in the coming week, South Carolinians will remember King and his legacy at a series of events, starting with a wreath-laying Saturday, multiple events on Monday for Martin Luther King Day, and a series of memorials in the weeks that follow.
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The anniversary of King’s death takes place in a time of renewed social activism in the form of the Black Lives Matter and “Me Too” movements, as well as bolder expressions of white nationalism like the violent rally in Charlottesville, Va., last summer.
Experts see King’s legacy as one of progress but also work left undone.
“It’s both, it’s not either/or,” said John Dozier, chief diversity officer at the University of South Carolina. “For South Carolina as a whole, I think you see that in the two years post-Confederate flag removal. That removal speaks to the progress we’ve made in the need for conditions for people to feel like they are a part of the state and the community, rather than apart from it.”
South Carolina ranks 22nd when it comes to the employment and the wealth gap between whites and blacks, as defined by labor force participation, poverty, business ownership and other measurements, according to WalletHub.
The state was 19th in terms of social engagement – including measures such as voter participation, the number of veterans and the share of the adult population on parole.
On the plus side, South Carolina has the second-lowest gap in the rate of homeownership between whites and blacks, with only the District of Columbia performing better.
South Carolina Also has made the second most progress in reducing the poverty gap between whites and blacks, ranking behind only Mississippi.
But South Carolina continues to have one of the largest race gaps in education – 44th – and in health, where the state ranked 47th.
Other neighboring Southeastern states scored higher levels of integration. Georgia ranked 11th and North Carolina was 18th.
But when ranked on racial progress, South Carolina has made the ninth most progress on economic indicators and 14th most on social engagement. However, education and health progress still ranked low — at 34 and 36 respectively.
11:45 a.m.: Wreath-laying, Dr. Martin Luther King Park, 2300 Greene St.
8 a.m.: MLK Celebration 5K, MLK Park and Five Points area
4 p.m.: Tribute concert, Zion Baptist Church, 701 Washington St.
8:30 a.m.: Prayer service, Zion Baptist Church, 701 Washington St.
9:20 a.m.: March from Zion Baptist to the S.C. State House, Washington and Main streets.
10 a.m.: King Day at the Dome rally, north steps of the State House
4 p.m.: MLK Celebration at MLK Park
Thursday, Jan. 18
6 p.m.: Screening and panel discussion, “Rikers: An American Jail,” USC School of Law
Friday, Jan. 19
7:30 a.m.: MLK Breakfast and 2018 Social Justice Awards, The Zone at Williams-Brice Stadium
Saturday, Jan. 20
8:30 a.m.: Day of Service, USC
Sunday, Jan. 21
6 p.m.: Freedom Rings music and dance performance, Kroger Center for the Arts