It’s bad for Blacks all across the country, but for those in Minnesota it’s even worse according to 24/7 Wall St.’s The Worst Cities for Black Americans 2018 report. It identifies the Twin Cities as fourth among the 15 worst cities in the country for Blacks.
The report ranked cities based on such factors as income, education, homeownership, unemployment, incarceration and mortality rates.
Word that Minnesota made another list, which has occurred often, has become a practice in picturing extremes. At one extreme there’s the North Star fairytale, which describes the state as a bastion of jobs, world-class education, organic markets, venues that host national acts, and downtown public transit that almost looks like an actual public transportation system.
But, while the state basks in such details of domestic bliss, at the other extreme is the creeping sense of a dark underbelly. The cold climate and speciousness of “Minnesota nice” aren’t the state’s only drawbacks for African Americans.
The numbers are damning. White poverty, says the study, is plenty lower in Minnesota (six percent) than the rest of the country (10 percent). Black poverty, though, at 32 percent, is higher in the state. That’s compared to a national rate of 26 percent.
Minnesota’s Black households, at just over $30,000 a year, make less than half of what White households make. White homeownership is at 75 percent, while only 24 percent of Blacks own a home.
“This is as bad as we want to see ourselves,” said Alex Tittle, Hennepin County Disparity Reduction Director. “We’re progressively getting better, however, we’re still at the bottom,” he said, noting the Twin Cities ranked even worse in 2015, at number two. “And Minnesota doesn’t like to be recognized at the bottom. So that dialogue is basically saying that you can’t hide. You’ve got to constantly show improvement. You have to constantly show transformative change.”
The study points to the lasting effects of pre-war housing redlining that physically segregated Blacks and Whites. Resources like education and job training are also allocated along those neighborhood — and thus, racial — lines, said Minneapolis NAACP President Leslie Redmond.
The way out is through bypassing quick political wins and making Black livelihood a priority at the city and state level, said Redmond, adding that reports exposing Black disparity help.
“Black people have been preaching this for decades,” she said.
The study noted that the cities with the worst numbers were largely in the Midwest, not the South.
Echoing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sentiment of the racist potency of the northern moderate White, even relative to the lynching southerner, Redmond said the problem manifests in Minnesota as an indifferent, fake “Minnesota nice.”
“When we tell Minnesotans we don’t have jobs, no one wants to listen,” said Redmond.
The challenge, said Mahmoud El-Kati, Black historian and professor emeritus at Macalester College, is to “harp on the fundamentals.” All of the things plaguing Black life — police brutality, job discrimination, preposterously high rates of incarceration and voter suppression, to name a few — stem from a “doctrine of White supremacy,” said El-Kati.
“There is no other competing ideology in this country,” he said. The idea of the negro didn’t exist before the slave trade, he pointed out. It’s a created idea that is “deep and visceral” and predicates “all American institutions.”
Racism, like anything, has variations, said El-Kati. “Minnesota has its own style.”
El-Kati, who lived in Georgia and Florida before moving to Minnesota in the 1960s, said Midwest redlining has been a pernicious issue for Blacks since it began and is only now making the new rounds. “White people don’t even think about it.”
That sort of frigid, systemic-based racism is the byproduct of the liberal White, said El-Kati. “I’ve seen segregation, overt racism, and covert racism like you find here, largely in liberal communities of Whites who are after values they themselves cannot commit to.”
He said the way through it, to stick to fundamentals, is to take the historical approach, to educate and remind Whites and Blacks that White supremacy started with the country and is the nation’s enduring tradition that seeps into everything.
White people need to “acknowledge White supremacy” and “take some ownership,” added Redmond.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility to pour resources into the Black community,” she said, “specifically the offspring of the slaves who literally, and spiritually, built the nation.”
El-Kati added that reports about specific aspects of disparity or anecdotal incidents, though horrific, aren’t worth getting bogged down in. Anywhere you look you will find Black exploitation, exclusion and horror.
So, El-Kati argues, energy is best spent beheading the dragonhead, the “American ethos” of White supremacy, instead of appendages like a single police department. “The police are not the source of it,” he said.
Tittle hopes to see such change sparked by the new Black and Brown waves of leadership.
“We’ve got strong leadership at the director levels of all of these critical areas, [from] social work to human services to health to public safety. This next group of commissioners, new leadership, attorney general, Chief Rondo — you’ve got a ton of people who are at the table who are focused and cognizant of the issues and they’re smart enough and they’re in leadership positions,” said Tittle.
“If we can’t deal with this right now with who we’ve got in place, shame on us. The World, the county, the community is depending us to do it right, [and] we’re positioned to do it. We just have to coordinate and communicate.”
To view 24/7 Wall St. report, visit bit.ly/2018WorstCities.
Stephenetta Harmon contributed to this article.
Solomon Gustavo was a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.