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More Diverse Voices Urged for ND to Address Racial Gaps

A national group that monitors state legislatures says North Dakota is among the states with very little diversity in elected officials. (Adobe Stock)
A national group that monitors state legislatures says North Dakota is among the states with very little diversity in elected officials. (Adobe Stock)
June 4, 2020

FARGO, N.D. -- Those demanding systemic change in North Dakota say more diversity in state government would be a good place to start.

The calls are growing louder in light of protests across the globe. Fargo is among the cities where demonstrations have been held in response to the police killing of unarmed black man George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Tawny Cale is board secretary of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. She says in fighting for the state's Native American population and other racial groups, they often have to play defense.

"We put in a lot of work to be proactive, but we end up being reactive," she states.

Cale says electing more minorities can help elevate discussions surrounding race and taking action that can better the lives of those who aren't seeing their basic rights being met.

According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, 99% of state lawmakers in North Dakota are white, while only 1% are Native American.

The report also says only 20% of the state legislature is comprised of women.

Richard Rockefeller, vice chair of the coalition, says he hopes policy makers take notice of the lack of diversity.

"That's how we will impact change in this state, is when all voices are heard and present at the table," he states. "And there are not enough people of color being welcomed at those tables. "

The coalition says the state's history of claims of voter suppression of Native Americans is a major barrier. Advocates say poverty and education gaps are other areas where systemic change is needed in North Dakota.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND