- Apr 18, 2013
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
The state’s reputation belies some of the country’s largest racial disparities.
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota is one of the best places to live in America. It has good schools, excellent housing and low unemployment. It regularly appears near the top of indexes for livability. But all of that matters much less if you’re Black. Across a whole host of measures — unemployment rates, wages, incarceration rates, test scores, homeownership rates — the gaps between white Minnesotans and Black Minnesotans are among the widest in the country. Take automobile ownership, for example. Nationally, 9 percent of households have no vehicle. The rate is 7 percent in Minnesota. Among African-American households nationally, 19 percent have no vehicle. Among African-American households in Minnesota, the rate is an astonishingly high 24 percent. So while Minnesota is a great place to live for white people, for Black people, it’s just like everywhere else — and sometimes worse. This is what I’ve termed the Minnesota Paradox: huge racial disparities masked by aggregate outcomes. For many Americans, this does not amount to racism because the individual decisions are not motivated by racial animus. What make Minnesota different from many other places in the country, though, are its explicit policies intended to create equity and equality. The state boasts a unique form of property tax equalization designed to equalize funding for local public schools.
But the structure of many of Minnesota’s policies and institutions — like police policies, housing policies, even regulations about driver’s licenses and renewal of tags — has a disproportionately adverse impact on nonwhites. These effects are not overcome by Minnesota’s progressivism. Unfortunately, the small number of Black people who lived in Minnesota in the early 20th century and through the postwar era faced brutal redlining practices from real estate brokers and lenders and racial covenants limiting where they could purchase homes. Redlining has left a lasting impact of racial disparities in wealth. In the 1990s, Minnesota’s child welfare and public housing policies simultaneously served as magnets for the dispossessed of other Midwestern cities like Detroit, Chicago and Gary, Ind., while reinforcing white welfare and housing authorities’ negative views toward the new migrants. The public employees who enforced these policies were not racist, or at least they do not view themselves as racist. After all, this is Minnesota: the liberal and progressive state that opens its doors to the poor and downtrodden. Instead, they were creating and perpetuating racial discrimination that baked disparities into the structure of life in Minnesota. Some of these structurally racist rules have been revised or abandoned — a good and necessary step — but their effects linger on.
Better than a lot of states. But Minnesota still has a high degree of systemic racism baked into its society.