MN House Republicans: Black lives don’t matter

Cities support Forum’s 5-Point Plan as GOP legislators ignore it

 

(l-r) Jeff Hassan, Chris Tolbert (to the left of Coleman), and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (Photo by Charles Hallman/MSR News)
(l-r) Jeff Hassan, Chris Tolbert (to the left of Coleman), and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (Photo by Charles Hallman/MSR News)

With the Minnesota State Legislature’s 2016 session slated to end next week, the issue of addressing economic inequality among its state citizenry of color may once again be ignored. This contrasts sharply with the consensus at other levels of government that the issue requires immediate, urgent attention.

According to U.S. Census data, there’s a nearly $50,000 gap in median annual incomes between Black families ($33,900) and White families ($81,500), and over $35,000 between Black families and Asians ($71,500).

“It became a wake-up call for us to do something,” said African American Leadership Forum Executive Director Jeff Hassan of his group’s 5-Point Plan that was conceived late last year.

The plan includes:

  1. Hiring in public and private sectors “that reflects the racial diversity” in the state, county, cities and school districts
  2. Black businesses getting a fair share of public and private contracts
  3. State legislation to end economic inequality
  4. “Equitable investments” in the Black community by state-based philanthropic organizations
  5. An annual report card created jointly by Black organizations, public, private and philanthropic sectors “to set goals and measure if what we are doing achieves results,” said Hassan last week during a May 11 press conference at St. Paul City Hall.

“The big issue is what we do now to address these glaring disparities,” said Hassan as he pointed out that Minnesota is “51st” in the U.S. “behind the District of Columbia and the other 49 states for African Americans.”

The St. Paul City Council last week unanimously voted to support the plan. “All seven of us and the mayor all agree on this,” pledged Councilman Chris Tolbert. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges also endorsed the plan last month.

“The response we received from Mayor [Chris] Coleman…has been tremendous,” continued Hassan. “We also got the mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges. And the University Of Minnesota Board of Regents and President [Eric] Kaler, the governor and lieutenant governor…have all agreed to the 5-Point Plan.”

“It is an incredible need” to address such inequities both locally and statewide, added Coleman. He supports Dayton’s $100 million investment proposal as well as a similar plan proposed by the House and Senate DFLers to help eliminate the state’s racial economic disparities. “We know that we need to get working with a fierce urgency to really address these inequities.”

Minneapolis Urban League President Steven Belton last week told the MSR that the economic woes that Blacks and other people of color are currently facing isn’t just a Twin Cities problem. “There are significant populations of Native Americans, Latinos and Hispanics in greater Minnesota [who] have representatives in the Minnesota House that are unresponsive to their needs,” he noted. “It is unacceptable that they can take care of the Iron Range as a top priority but ignore Black people that have far greater unemployment, far greater income, health and educational disparities. It’s just unacceptable.”

Coleman told the MSR that even if something does happen before the 2016 state legislative session ends on May 23, “This won’t be the end… It’s a long haul in front of us, but we have to work hard at it.”

Belton complained that the Republican-controlled House has yet to present their racial equity plan as have the Senate Democrats and Gov. Dayton. “What the House of Representatives and their [Republican] leadership are saying [is] that Black lives don’t matter,” he said. “I think they are ignoring us.”

Hassan said he and other Black leaders have tried to “get a face-to-face” with GOP leaders. “That [has] yet to happen,” he said. “We can do a lot of talking and endorsing, but what happens after that is most important.”

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.