State of Exclusion: Profile on Moore County
The UNC Center for Civil Rights continues its series of county level profiles on the legacy of racial segregation, focusing this time on Moore County. Building on last year’s statewide State of Exclusion report, this series includes prior reports on Lenoir and Davidson counties; all are available at www.uncinclusionproject.org. Profiles of additional counties will follow in the coming weeks, each highlighting particular aspects of that county’s history, ongoing impacts of exclusion, and progress toward full inclusion of all residents.
Moore County, in the southern part of the Piedmont of North Carolina, is the center of the Sandhills region, known today primarily for its luxurious golf resorts, especially Pinehurst, home to this year’s U.S. Open Golf Tournament. Despite significant strides, Moore County remains nearly as deeply divided as described by the New York Times in 2005, the last time it hosted a U.S. Open. Most basic amenities have been extended to the excluded communities nearest the wealthiest golf resorts, but when looking at the county as a whole, racial and economic segregation persists. This report focuses on the impact of racial segregation on affordable housing, public education, environmental justice, and access to municipal services. The UNC Center for Civil Rights continues to represent several excluded communities in the county; the history of the Center’s work there informs the report, but like prior reports all conclusions are based upon publically available data.
Southern Moore County is characterized by several wealthy predominantly white towns, including Pinehurst, and smaller majority African American communities. The northern part of the county is more rural, including low wealth communities that are white, Latino, and African American. Subsidized affordable housing in Moore County is disproportionately concentrated in the areas that have a higher percentage people of color. West Southern Pines, the census tract with the most units, including 70 of the 101 units of public housing and over a third of all the subsidized housing units in the county, is also the only tract in the county that is majority people of color. One effect of clustering subsidized housing in already concentrated areas of poverty and non-white population is to exclude African Americans, Latinos, and low wealth residents from neighborhoods of higher opportunity that have greater access to employment, higher median incomes, and better educational opportunities. This countywide pattern of exclusion perpetuates racial segregation and frustrates the purposes of the Fair Housing Act.
Despite having a single countywide school district, an examination of Moore County elementary schools shows great disparities in educational performance on third grade standardized tests. These disparities correlate directly to the percentage of students in each school who qualify for free or reduced lunch. The current assignment policy, based upon the proximity of students to a particular school, effectively reproduces patterns of racial and economic segregation in housing. Changes to the student assignment plan which sought to lessen economic disparities among the student bodies would likely lead to better academic performance for low performing students.
Because the county and each of the municipalities has an overwhelming white majority, building political power among African Americans to address these issues will continue to be a hurdle to full inclusion. The county commissioners and school board are all white, as are the town councils of Pinehurst, Aberdeen, and Whispering Pines. Southern Pines and Carthage each have one African American on the town council. Progress in Moore County has historically been driven instead by active community organizations, based in individual communities but collaborating together. These organizations continue to be necessary and ought to be supported however possible.
The information in this profile of Moore County can only come alive through dialogue with the affected communities. The Center for Civil Rights hopes to hear from residents, advocates, and community leaders as we continue to uncover the history and scope of exclusion. The goal is to provide communities, advocates, and policy makers with an understanding of the shared causes of the overlapping challenges facing excluded communities, identify data on the seriousness of the issues, and suggest where additional information is needed. The first phase of this project was a statewide analysis culminating in the publication of the State of Exclusion report. The results were startling, especially with respect to educational disparities and environmental justice issues, but ultimately the report raised more questions than provided answers. The Inclusion Project of the UNC Center for Civil Rights now continues this work with these profiles of individual counties. Look for information on other counties this summer.