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Colorado, Utah and Oklahoma all finished up their elections Tuesday, and Medicaid expansion in OK appears to have passed. And, a Supreme Court ruling could open the door for more public money to religious institutions.

Lack of Voices of Color Underscores SD Disparities

Less than 2% of South Dakota's population is Black, and advocates for people of color say the lack of diversity is also reflected in state government, which can make it hard to address issues of race. (Adobe Stock)
Less than 2% of South Dakota's population is Black, and advocates for people of color say the lack of diversity is also reflected in state government, which can make it hard to address issues of race. (Adobe Stock)
June 2, 2020

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- People across the country are protesting the killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer. In South Dakota, some say there's a need for systemic change, but not enough voices in power to make a difference.

Floyd, a black man killed by a white police officer, has become a symbol for generations of oppression and mistreatment of African-Americans. Vaney Hariri, who runs a small business in Sioux Falls, said as a black person, he's dealt with racial profiling by police since moving to South Dakota.

He said the impact never goes away, even if the encounters aren't high-profile incidents.

"I think what a lot of people have the misconception of is, is because we didn't experience the levels of racism that preceded us, that we don't have claim to it," Hariri said. "But there is a legacy of it. It's in our DNA."

Others point to the lack of diversity in state government. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 94% of South Dakota lawmakers are white. Advocates for the state's minority communities say this lack of diversity among policymakers makes it difficult to address systemic issues.

Libby Skarin, campaigns director at the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, said the diversity issue at the State Capitol is also troubling when it comes to closing gaps in serving the Native American population.

"There hasn't been a real attempt to address the historic wrongs that have happened in this state, and to address the current relationship with our state government and indigenous folks and the tribes," Skarin said.

In the days following the killing of George Floyd, the national conversation has resurrected cries to not only establish meaningful reform within police agencies, but also to end longstanding economic and achievement gaps for people of color.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - SD