Greenwood native advising authorities on civil rights | Information

President Joe Biden signed initiatives this week aimed at improving racial justice across the country.

“Now is the time to tackle racial injustice,” Biden said before signing the orders on Tuesday.

The first command is a memorandum for the Minister of Housing and Urban Development to improve the history of discriminatory housing practices and policies of the nation and the federal government, Biden said.

Another order aims to reform the detention system by eliminating the use of privately operated penal institutions.

Stephen Gilchrist, of Greenwood, who was appointed to the US Civil Rights Commission by President Donald Trump last year, will be among seven other commissioners advising the current administration on racial justice.

Gilchrist, a politically conservative politician, is chairman and executive director of the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce, where he leads a membership of more than 15,000 companies.

He is a recognized authority on national public policy initiatives, including educational reform, alternative energy sources, and financial and economic security for communities of low income. He was a guest on several cable network news programs.

Gilchrist, who now lives in Colombia, hopes to give the Biden Administration quality advice on race issues.

“I was thrilled to have the opportunity not only to serve but also to bring what I believe to be a rich civil rights experience as it relates in various forms to some of my work in South Carolina and across the country,” so Gilchrist said. “The White House reached out to me and asked if I would think about it, and I have confirmed that I would. I really appreciated President Trump for allowing me to serve as his agent. “

In 2015, Gilchrist and the African American Chamber of Commerce invited all presidential candidates to a forum in Charleston to speak with business owners about their platforms and the intersection of those platforms with black businesses and blacks. Gilchrist invited Republicans and Democrats.

“The first person to accept my invitation was the then-candidate Trump,” said Gilchrist. “We didn’t think he would come. He appeared and spoke to African American leaders who were there and met with African American leaders before the meeting and spoke of his interest in wanting to do something if he was to become President of the United States. “

Gilchrist said Trump spoke about things “very important to the business interests of African Americans,” including legislative reform.

At the meeting, Trump said he was often paid a lot of money for speeches, but Gilchrist “took him there for free.” Trump called Gilchrist on stage and said he was exactly the type of “tough negotiator” he wanted on his team if he was elected president. Trump did not forget Gilchrist and appointed him a five-year member of the commission last May.

“When President Trump was elected, I was invited to the White House a couple of times to talk about what can be done for African American companies in this country,” Gilchrist said. “We’ve talked about a variety of things the government has been working on, from historically black colleges to economic development zones. Sen. (Tim Scott) was an advocate for her in South Carolina, what you call health care.

“The administration gave me a platform on which I can think about it. I appreciated the President who gave me the opportunity to see a bird’s eye view of what was happening in the administration and to his people. I think this relationship has, over time, led to the President asking me to join the Commission. “

The commission consists of four appointed presidents and four appointed members of Congress.

“The Commission’s job is to campaign for civil rights in this country,” said Gilchrist.

The commission was drafted by the Civil Rights Act of 1967, and Congress continued to approve it as a non-partisan organization to “inform federal agencies what to do to support the development and work of civil rights in the states” said Gilchrist. “In the midst of what we see now, our work for us is limited to issues that we know are critical to everyone’s civil rights.”

Gilchrist listed several key issues, including the police shootings of unarmed black men, the importance of ensuring all votes are counted – and addressing concerns about election fraud – and general equality.

“It’s just about making sure people live in a country where freedom is actually the hallmark of who we are,” Gilchrist said. “As African Americans and descendants of slaves, we recognize and value the history of black people and all minorities in this country.”

He said the question is how to create an environment in which anyone, regardless of color, can exercise the freedoms “we all value,” Gilchrist said. “As a Conservative and a Republican, I believe in these values ​​for all Americans. I hope that I can help have discussions like this in the Commission. “

Gilchrist said he thinks there are many conservative blacks in the country.

“One of the initiatives I want to support is called Civil Rights Conservatives,” Gilchrist said. “I think the idea that conservatives don’t care about civil rights is a misnomer. I think we need to begin to understand how people come to talk about civil rights. People see civil rights from their own perspective. The trademark of the civil rights movement was a conservative agenda. “

Gilchrist said he often thinks back to his roots as a church musician in Greenwood. “When I go to church, I don’t hear black pastors in churches where I’ve been talking about abortion all my life. This is an issue in the Commission that we cannot legally weigh up.

“As an individual, African Americans have applied this conservative bias to things like education,” Gilchrist said. “When we couldn’t go to public schools, blacks raised their own children and it turned out to be some of the greatest education leaders in this country.”

Speaking of criminal justice reform, he said, “We’re talking about an almost libertarian idea that we want to make sure that instead of locking people up for long periods of time, we find ways to rehabilitate people and bring them back into society and keep them productive Citizens of society. It has been skewed as a party political perspective rather than values. For me, conservatism is a value system. “

Gilchrist wants to focus on economic equality and is currently working on a project related to the Fair Housing Act.

“My twist on this is whether the fair housing law is fair – or if it was ever fair,” Gilchrist said. “It may have had remarkable good intentions when it was created, but how does that look in 2021? What does it look like amid a pandemic? “

He said that as part of the commission he would like to look at some of the “ingrained ideas” that have remained untouched and how we express creativity in some of these areas. “

Gilchrist said he was a big supporter of the school choice. He says parents should be free to choose how their children are raised.

“How can we move away from an obsolete system in 2021, developed over 150 years ago based on the notion that at some point children would leave school to work in the fields?” Said Gilchrist. “I believe public education is exactly what it is, but it can be delivered in many, many ways. I hope I can weigh some of this with the Commission and see where it goes. “

Currently, Gilchrist said a conversation needs to be held about COVID-19 and the needs of underserved minority communities met. He also said he was interested in helping minority communities become a bigger part of the global community when it comes to broadband internet access.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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