South Carolina’s economy is robust, more visitors and transplants show up every day and the state’s Republican lawmakers have cozied up to President Trump to make the best of things. But with Walter Scott shot dead by a white police officer and white supremacist Dylann Roof opening fire at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015, tense race relations continue to plague the state.
Despite one major snafu – a failed nuclear power plant project that essentially wasted $9 billion – South Carolina's economy has lately gone strong. The job market is up, and people are moving to the state in record numbers, to the point where Columbia created the position of 'annexation coordinator' to figure out where to put everybody. Development projects under way along the coast are poised to expand the tri-county Charleston area, and Greenville has also been experiencing unprecedented growth. (Cue the sad alligator losing its habitat…)
Meanwhile, tourism (the state's largest industry) is churning out record visitor numbers and profits, despite a couple of hurricanes that triggered serious flooding and devastated the coast in 2016 and 2017. More than six million people are projected to visit the state in 2018, but a question remains over where the lower-income employees of the tourism sector will live.
In 2018 a $529-million dredging project began deepening the Port of Charleston, which in a few years will become the deepest waterway on the East Coast, allowing container ships that have traveled through the Panama Canal to bring in heavier loads despite tidal fluctuations. The dig is expected to boost economic development statewide.
Two high-profile, racially charged murders rocked Charleston in 2015, and the perpetrators have been brought to justice. For fatally shooting nine African American churchgoers, self-proclaimed white supremacist Dylann Roof is serving nine consecutive life sentences without parole. After fatally shooting Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, as he ran away, former police officer Walter Slager, who is white, is serving 20 years. The Confederate flag no longer flies at the Statehouse in Columbia. But in the era of Donald Trump, who has retweeted the views of racist hate groups, this wound has continued to fester.
As a former hub for slave trade and the first state to secede from the Union before the Civil War, South Carolina has a history fraught with inequality. Decades after desegregation, residents in many areas have continued to self-segregate, and this is true even in Beaufort, a celebrated hub of Gullah culture where President Obama declared a Reconstruction Era monument. Meanwhile, Confederate monuments remain a sticking point. There are 112 of them throughout the state that are protected by the Heritage Act, which dictates that no historical monument can be altered or moved without a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the General Assembly.
Some in South Carolina argue that the monuments are part of their history, have little to do with slavery, and should stay exactly where they are. The opposing view is that the Civil War was mainly about slavery, and honoring those who fought for economic interests dependent on slavery is insensitive. Failures of empathy are not in short supply. In late 2017 the following homework question on the Reconstruction Era was assigned in Irmo, South Carolina: 'You are a member of the KKK. Why do you think your treatment of African Americans is justified?' The teacher was suspended.
Politics & Injustice
South Carolina is a red state through and through. Well, almost. In 13 of the last 14 presidential elections the state has voted Republican, with the only exception being Jimmy Carter. All but one of the state's US representatives are Republicans, and both US senators are Republicans. One of those, Lindsey Graham, exchanged insults with President Trump when he was first elected, with Graham calling Trump 'the world's biggest jackass' and Trump responding that Graham was 'an idiot.' In late 2017, though, they teamed up to try to sink Obamacare and lower taxes, and started hitting the golf links together. Meanwhile, former SC governor Nikki Haley was tapped by Trump to become the UN Ambassador.
Over in the judicial branch, South Carolina's failings have been splashed across the national news. Public defenders are apparently in short supply in the state's municipal courts, which has meant that poor people charged with crimes have been attempting to defend themselves, and losing (a violation of their constitutional rights). Also, in late 2017 the state found itself in the crossfire in the national debate on capital punishment when it ran out of execution drugs. This was an issue because it was set to execute Bobby Wayne Stone on December 1, and nobody wanted to sell the state any more drugs, fearing a backlash. At the time of research the case had been postponed indefinitely.