A few years ago one of my favorite ministers preached a sermon entitled “What You Gon’ Do!” The theme of the sermon was that you are placed in a variety of situations, trials and tribulations and you must decide how you are going to respond. The cliff notes version of the sermon was “don’t talk about it, be about it.” The marching orders were to set goals and reach them with commitment and integrity, no matter what cards you have been dealt and no matter what the statistics tell you.
For the second time in the last two years, the Twin Cities has been named the 4th worse city for Black people to live. The only cities that placed worse than the Twin Cities are Milwaukee and Racine, Wisconsin and Waterloo, Iowa. The ironic thing about this ranking is that overall the Twin Cities and Minnesota have some of the highest rankings for education, health, wealth, housing and employment. The State of Minnesota consistently ranks in the top three states for livability and in the past has been home to more millionaires per capita than any other state. We know that the reasons for this large disparity is the gap between blacks and whites in all of the fore-mentioned categories. Four Hundred years of slavery, stolen lands, family destruction, business and community destruction, racism, discrimination, Jim Crow, restrictive covenants, lynchings/murders, sexual assaults/rapes, case law misinterpretations and political abuses led to these vast disparities and grave statistics that this survey reports on every year. We know like clock work that Minnesota will be ranked near the bottom for Black people for livability.
The reality is clear. Black people in Minnesota are not doing as well as their White counterparts. This is what we have known for quite some time and probably can predict every year just like we know it will definitely snow and be cold in Minnesota in December and January. The question then becomes not what the statistics will report each year, but instead the question is, What have we done and what are we going to continue to do to make it better.
I truly believe that when you know the data you can truly design and implement strategies to address the data and make things better. You can rest assured that we know very well the disparity or racial inequity data in Minnesota. How do I know this you ask? Well, I know this because every year we hear the same statistics about Minnesota being the 2nd, 3rd or 4th worse place to live for Black people. (Two years ago Minnesota was the 2nd worse city) What we don’t hear are stories that reflect on what is being done or could be done to change this current status. This is what I hope to hear about and see more of in the future.
In 2011 unemployment for Black people in Minnesota was 25%. In 2018, unemployment for Black people was 6%. Unemployment for Black people still remains twice that of white Minnesotans, but no longer are 1/4 of all Black people in Minnesota unemployed. Somebody did something to make a change and although not perfect, they made it better. By 2035, 1/4 or all Minnesotans will be people of color. A dramatic increase from 6% in 1990. Currently 20% of Minnesotans are people of color. By 2050 1 out of 2 working age Minnesotans will be a person of color. This must lead to changes in: recruitment processes, who ultimately gets hired and how we retain our best employees. Employers who want to be successful must make a change in their recruiting and promotional practices for the expanding workforce (people of color) in order to maintain a competitive advantage.
In 2018, the State of Minnesota increased spend with Black owned business by 1,075%. Now mind you, in order to increase spend by over 1,000%, spend had to be worse than abysmal and it was. However, rather than do a study again and again and tell us that the numbers are abysmal, an effort was made to be intentional and measure success while trying to get better. Somebody did something to increase investment in Black businesses.
In 2019, many small and large businesses have been working with the People of Color Career Fair, St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, Center for Economic Inclusion, Greater MSP, Make It MSP, Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, MEDA, minority chambers and organizations like African American Leadership Forum, Coalition of Asian American Leaders, Latino Lead and the Tiwhae Foundation (American Indian) to make equitable changes for Minnesotans and no longer have Blacks and other people of. color rank at the bottom for quality of life measures in Minnesota. Also in 2019, many people acted with more intentionality to develop the skills and promotional opportunities for Black employees and Black owned businesses in their respective organizations. Somebody decided to do something and hopefully they will make these changes sustainable over the next several years.
I started this blog by simply asking the question, what you gon’ do? I want to challenge each of you reading this article to individually and collectively answer that question and then commit to actions. So the next time you hear the statistic about how bad Black people are doing in Minnesota you can say that you: 1) intentionally spent money with Black owned business; 2) intentionally mentored or sponsored a Black employee to be successful and promoted at your company; 3) invested in (money or donated services) home ownership (NAREB) and financial independence for Black families; 4) sponsored and supported social and community activities that bring together Communities of Color; 5) intentionally identified structural and institutional racism as barriers to Black success in Minnesota and started to dismantle these structures and institutions; and 6) set measurable equity goals and implemented strategies to achieve these goals while holding yourself accountable for your own biases and non-inclusive behaviors.
So the next time you read or post a story about how bad it is for Black Minnesotans ask yourself what has been done, what is being done and lastly what are you willing to do to make it better.
Don ‘t talk about it be about it – Do Something!