As of 2017, Minnesota’s unenviable track record made it the nation’s second-most unequal state (just after Wisconsin). An inRead study measured disparity gaps between Black and White residents in, amongst other areas, unemployment, income, education and homeownership. It also found Black Minnesotans are 10 times more likely to serve jail or prison time.
YWCA Minneapolis is hosting its annual symposium, “It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race,” on Thursday, Oct. 25 to further its commitment to counter such racial disparities.
The forum is designed to remedy inequity and move attendees through honest conversation about race. Caroline Wanga, Target Corporation chief diversity and inclusion officer and vice president of human resources, will serve as keynote speaker.
“We are excited to put this event together and to engage the community, especially with the current political environment, everything that’s happening at the national level,” said YWCA Racial Justice and Public Policy Vice President Rubén Vázquez. “At the local level, it’s important to provide a space [for] uncomfortable, much-needed conversations.”
YWCA President-CEO Luz Maria Frias said, “Racism is about the barriers that result in disparities, systemic barriers, which is why this event is valuable, dismantling racism by having training take place. This event is [about] action in the workplace.
“Because of the national narrative coming out of Washington and across our country [and at] the state level as well, there is a real frustration [on the part of] some people in our community as to how they might be able to be part of the solution,” she continued.
“Our goal is to challenge attendees to improve on racism in the workplace. We offer services through customized workshops for employers so they can then move the needle on how they interact with people of color and indigenous people. In their heart, people want to be part of the solution. But, they don’t know where to start, what to do, how to get there.”
Upwards of 1,200 Twin Cities leaders in business, education, arts, advocacy, and social services are expected to join in the conversation.
“One of the ways we measure our success is that it continues to be a very popular event,” said Vázquez. “Another measure is that our sister organization YWCA Mankato has taken this model and is using it.”
Other organizations either utilizing YWCA Minneapolis’ trademarked forum or expressing interest include the YWCAs in Washington, D.C., Cleveland and Atlanta as well as the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Last year, YWCA Minneapolis served more than 30,000 people through racial justice advocacy and training, early childhood education, girls and youth programming and health and wellness. New this year is a program called “It’s Time to Act!” designed to help participants continue the conversation on racial equity.
Beginning in December, the four-part series is aimed at undoing institutionalized conditioning that has impeded the ability to recognize and rectify prejudice. The series workshops include: “Systemic Racism: Identifying and Dismantling It” (Dec. 4); “White Fragility: Unpacking Privilege” (Feb 13); “Before Jesus Was White: Unlearning Our Truth” (Apr. 11); and, “Racism and Sexism: Revealing the Intersectionality” (June 13).
“White fragility,” Frias said, “is a topic very much in conversation, particularly in Minnesota, where we have very well-meaning people who are White and who think they are ‘woke.’ Yet, if they are met with criticism, they get defensive. [Author] Robin DiAngelo [will talk] about how to move past it, so they actually can be authentic allies in eliminating racism.”
“Before Jesus Was White” flies in the face of images depicting Jesus Christ as flaxen-haired and blue-eyed despite coming from a region where inhabitants did not have European features.
“We have two speakers coming, Curtis Paul DeYoung and Anthony Galloway, who’ve written on this and will have a provocative conversation [to discuss] why it matters that we need to [accept] that he was not White and how that works into the power structure,” said Frias.
The “It’s Time to Talk” forum takes place Thursday, Oct. 25, 11:30 am-1:30 pm at the Minneapolis Convention Center located at 1301 Second Ave. S. in downtown Minneapolis. Locations and times for “It’s Time to Act” will be announced in the coming weeks.
For more information, visit www.ywcampls.org.