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Research Group: MN Has Endless Resources to Help Fight Racism

Even before the global protests over the police killing of George Floyd, Minnesota had faced criticism for not taking sufficient steps to close some of the nation's worst racial gaps. (Adobe Stock)
Even before the global protests over the police killing of George Floyd, Minnesota had faced criticism for not taking sufficient steps to close some of the nation's worst racial gaps. (Adobe Stock)
July 1, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- Racial gaps existed in Minnesota long before the police killing of George Floyd. Activists say institutional changes are needed to close those gaps, and a research group has an "A to Z" guide for those seeking ways to help.

A couple years ago, the "Minnesota Compass" social indicators project created a Racial Equity Resource Directory. The directory is managed by the Wilder Foundation's Justin Hollis, who described it as an online inventory of people and organizations working to end racism and boost cultural competency across the region.

"You can find organizations that provide technical training and assistance," he said. "You can find organizations that challenge policies to reduce institutional racism and bias."

For example, there's a service that evaluates companies on deeply rooted equity issues within their systems. And while many companies and local governments have issued statements of solidarity with the racialjustice movement, Hollis said these commitments are not new. Despite past claims about diversity and inclusion, he said, research shows there hasn't been much change in Minnesota.

The state's racial gaps -- in wealth, education and criminal justice -- repeatedly have surfaced in annual reports and studies, as recently as last year. Hollis said this is an opportunity for the region to shed its reputation as a "polite" culture that has opted to sweep systemic issues under the rug.

"In light of all of the awareness, all of the talk about intentionality, and diversity and inclusion in our region," he said, "I think that our region is one of the best at 'talking the talk.'"

The group AntiRacism Study Dialogue Circles has been working to prompt businesses and agencies to transform that "talk" into lasting action. The group's director, Okogyeamon, said he's seen an uptick in interest in their services since Floyd's death -- but the big question is, will the movement overcome any push-back toward the status quo?

"How strong shall the forces of change be in changing the institutions? So, hearts have to change, but institutions have to change," he said.

This isn't something that can be wrapped up in a short workshop," he said, adding that overcoming an institutionalized form of communication is like learning a new language; it takes time and dedication.

The directory is online at mncompass.org, and the data on racial gaps are at naacp.org.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN