What to do about Two Minnesotas?

Ellarry PrenticeEditorial, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. JosephLeave a Comment

The video of a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a black man while he slowly died shocked people around the world. The incident outraged millions, who took to the streets in protest. But by looking deeper than that chilling incident, we find an even larger blight on Minnesota’s reputation.

The Twin Cities’ shiny image as a progressive city, home to Fortune 500 companies, innovators in technology and medicine, and world-class health care, arts and education is an illusion for the state’s people of color. With a closer look at the facts, that shiny illusion fades.

The legacy of rogue and racist Minneapolis cops is not news to anyone who pays attention. Minnesota’s race issues go far beyond fixing the Minneapolis Police Department.

By many measurements, we see we are not One Minnesota, but Two Minnesotas. Stark racial differences in quality of life have long existed and the protests peeled back that reality for many in the state who were unaware, Gov. Tim Walz said.

Let’s start with the police department. About 20 percent of Minneapolis’s population of 430,000 is black. But when the police get physical nearly 60 percent of the time the person subject to that force is black, according to the department’s records.

Since 2015, the Minneapolis police have documented using force about 11,500 times. For at least 6,650 acts of force, the subject of that force was black. By comparison, the police have used force about 2,750 times against white people, who make up about 60 percent of the population. Those numbers mean Minneapolis cops use force against black people at a rate at least seven times that of white people during the past five years.

Now let’s look at income and home ownership.

The typical black family in Minneapolis earns less than half as much as the typical white family and homeownership among black people is one-third the rate of white families.

As a result, many black families have been effectively locked out of the prosperity the city’s overwhelmingly white population enjoys.

The median black family income in Minneapolis was $36,000 in 2018, according to Census Bureau data. Though that figure compares favorably with black families in many other U.S. metro areas, it is far from the nearly $83,000 a typical white family in the city would earn. The $47,000 difference is one of the largest such gaps in the nation.

In percentage terms, the typical black household earns only 44 percent as much as the typical white one. Of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, only Milwaukee has a larger gap between black and white earnings.

Roughly one-quarter of black families in Minneapolis own their home, which is one of the lowest black homeownership rates in the United States. The city’s white families, by contrast, have one of the nation’s highest rates at 76 percent. The resultant gap works out to more than 50 percentage points. Only Madison, Wisconsin, and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania., have larger gaps.

The housing disparity dates back 75 years or more. In the first half of the 20th century estate transactions in many Minneapolis neighborhoods were bound by provisions that limited ownership to white families. As racially-restrictive deeds spread, African Americans were pushed into a few small areas of the city. And even as the number of black residents continued to climb, ever-larger swaths of the city became entirely white. Though no longer enforceable, those covenants continue to shape settlement patterns in the Twin Cities.

Minnesotans have a lot of work to do. Nationally, Minnesota ranks fifth in a list of states that have the longest way to go to reach racial equality. Three of our neighboring states (Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota), along with Connecticut are ahead of us as states with the biggest disparity. States were ranked by income gap, education gap, home ownership and incarceration rate.

Reacting to the demonstrations, we should, in the words of Colin Powell “rather than curse them we should embrace them.” Minnesotans need to take a realistic look at the facts and then take action so we indeed have One Minnesota.

As Walz said last week, “I don’t think we get another chance to fix this in our country.”

Author: Ellarry Prentice

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