Minnesotans can add yet another “gap’’ problem to the state’s already-lengthy list. In addition to significant racial disparities in education and income, troubling differences exist in perceptions about race.
A recent Star Tribune Minnesota Poll documented the stark, nearly opposite ways that African-Americans and whites view some racial issues. It found, for example, that nearly all (97 percent) of white respondents had a favorable opinion of state law enforcement agencies, while only 26 percent of blacks shared that view. Twice as many blacks (60 percent) as whites (28 percent) believe that police are more likely to use deadly force against a black person. And when asked about the Black Lives Matter movement, very few whites (6 percent) had a favorable view, while almost all of the blacks questioned (94 percent) saw the movement favorably.
According to experts, one way to address the perception gulf is to narrow or close the real gaps.
Last week, about 1,000 people attended a Twin Cities United Way forum to discuss how and why racial equity in education, health, employment and other areas should matter to all Minnesotans. Keynote speaker Angela Glover Blackwell said there is an urgency about getting the “equity agenda right’’ — not just for those left behind, but for the entire nation. As communities of color continue to grow, she said, the U.S. will increasingly depend on them to build the economy.
Blackwell is a nationally known social-justice scholar and CEO of PolicyLink. Her research group produced a 2014 demographic report on Minnesota with this conclusion: Achieving racial equity is the best way for the state to grow and prosper.
Getting there will require difficult conversations. It also means government, businesses and communities pulling together to take intentional, effective steps to improve health, housing, education and employment opportunities for all Minnesotans, as well as better relations between the police and people of color.