A Guilty Verdict is Not Enough: Minneapolis Needs to Address the Root Causes of Racism
Written by Shannon Smith Jones and Warren McLean
The guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial may bring accountability for the murder of George Floyd, but it certainly does not bring justice for all. Not for Daunte Wright’s family, nor for the hundreds of victims of police brutality in our city. As community leaders, we are keenly aware of our city’s mounting challenges, those of racially based policing and beyond. We must seize this moment to tackle systemic racial economic and judicial inequality using a holistic approach.
Minneapolis is often touted as a great place to live, but it is only great for some of us. While White residents have benefited from population and economic growth, that’s not the case for people of color. Our city has a history of racially restrictive covenants, segregation and racial tension that have led to current disparities in housing, homeownership, education and employment. According to a new report by Prosperity Now and JP Morgan Chase, the average income poverty rate for Minneapolis is 17.5% . This is 3.5% higher than for the United States, and a whopping 7.5% higher than the state as a whole. Put another way, White residents’ income is three times that of Black and Native American residents. This disparity leads to crushing realities for Black residents. Roughly 60% of Black renters are cost burdened and unsurprisingly, we are seeing an alarming rise in homelessness. The common denominator in cases of homelessness in Minneapolis is low incomes and lack of affordable housing.
Education, a gateway to higher income, is another area where we see alarming inequities. Only 80% of Indigenous residents and 75% of Black residents have a high school degree or higher, compared to 97% of White residents. The disparity for a bachelor’s degree or higher is equally stark at 37% for White residents and nine percent for Black residents.
Disparities in business ownership, another proven avenue to wealth building, are also prevalent. While about seven percent of White residents are business owners, only three percent of Asian, Black and Latinx residents are. These business owners experience barriers at every turn, especially accessing capital to start, protect and grow their businesses. In addition to the shutdowns because of the pandemic, small businesses have been shutting their doors in alarming numbers because of the unrest in the wake of the murders of Floyd and Wright.
Like the rest of the country, Minneapolis has received a short-term rush of resources during the pandemic that is helpful, but not sustainable, nor adequate for addressing the root issues at play. It’s time for state, local and federal governments and philanthropies, corporate funders and investors to provide targeted long-term investments in our communities. Investments must center on community needs by creating systems and policies that dismantle current structural barriers. It’s been said that the Black community is owed its own Marshall Plan, to rebuild from the destruction and desolation created through targeted community disinvestment, concerted labor exploitation and systemic oppression. We agree and believe this influx of resources should touch all sectors that cross the lives of BIPOC residents, from education to affordable housing to small business ownership.
Minnesota is a state recognized for its innovation, and we have an opportunity to use that creativity to solve socioeconomic problems of all residents. This is not a question of if Minneapolis has the resources; this is a matter of will. In five years, will we look back at this moment and see the repeated cycle of business as usual into the next crisis? Or will we have laid the groundwork to prepare our youth for the workforce; to protect and grow our Black and Indigenous businesses; to reduce our homelessness, secure homeownership for BIPOC residents and reduce housing cost burdens?
Minneapolis has an opportunity to lead in equitable policy solutions that tackle the deeply rooted racial economic inequality evolving in the city and the state. Seizing it simply requires us all to decide that now is the time.
Shannon Smith Jones is the Executive Director at Hope Community CDC. Warren McLean is President of NEON. Both are based in Minneapolis.