Racial Disparities in Minneapolis
With the help of Shawn Lewis from the African American Men's Project who has been working hard to educate me and others in City Hall about the racial disparities in Minneapolis, I have come to recognize this as a critical area where Minneapolis is failing. To get some idea of the problem look at some of the data gathered by Dr. Rosa A. Smith’s in “Black Male Students: Minnesota’s Litmus Test and Opportunity for Public Education" that was presented last year at a meeting of the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership.
Today, in response to this data and Shawn's urging, the City’s Economic Development staff presented a report on the employment and poverty gaps between white and minority residents to the Health, Energy and Environment committee. The report reveals many good efforts to address poverty and unemployment in Minneapolis, as well as very disturbing racial disparities. For example, we learned that roughly 11% of white people in Minneapolis live in poverty compared to 43% of all black people (including African immigrants), 43% of Asian Americans and nearly 35% of American Indians. The unemployment rate for whites is just over 4%; for blacks it is nearly 14%. Additionally, if we looked more exclusively at unemployment rates for young males in these groups the disparities would likely be even more disturbing.
At the meeting I was proud to move forward a resolution that, if passed by the Council, will create a joint Minneapolis/Hennepin County Racial Disparities Steering Committee that I hope will help us get a handle on this. It is my hope that by building (and building on already existing) partnerships (first with the County but also with the schools, colleges and employers) and focusing on promising demonstration projects we can begin to make inroads on this problem.
I remain convinced that combating poverty and unemployment are key to our success in so many areas in our City. I am hopeful that this new focus will help bring some added resources and energy to help.