Column: Core group committed to change is needed to end systemic racismWhile it’s crucial for our community to continue to discuss racism — and in particular to create awareness about the interpersonal hateful acts that so many report being exposed to — if we wish to make any substantial progress, it is time to address institutional racism.
By: Reyna Crow, For the Budgeteer News
While it’s crucial for our community to continue to discuss racism — and in particular to create awareness about the interpersonal hateful acts that so many report being exposed to — if we wish to make any substantial progress, it is time to address institutional racism.
This was the goal of Equity Day on Feb. 1, organized by Henry Banks and Bob Grytdahl. Banks is a community organizer and host of “People of Color with Henry Banks” on KUWS-FM, and Grytdahl is Duluth’s human rights officer.
More than 30 community members attended the event, which included the release of the 2013 Racial Equity Agenda. Among speakers was Salvador Miranda of the Organizing Apprenticeship Project in Minneapolis, who called for leadership across communities and all levels of government to build racial justice through multiple measures.
Also, OAP’s 2012 Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity was released, grading legislators on how well they addressed systemic racism and focusing on policies and practices in employment, education, housing, health care,
law enforcement and criminal justice that systematically tend to disadvantage people of color relative to whites. Those disparities are reflected in high school graduation rates, unemployment rates, arrest and incarceration rates and life expectancy.
A few hours before the release of the report, a multi-racial group including Banks, Grytdahl, Miranda and city officials, representatives of area agencies, communities of faith and area citizens met at Duluth City Hall to discuss ways to work together to enhance racial justice by strategically eliminating systemic racism in our community. This meeting focused significantly on impacting disparities in local employment. Members of HIRE MN discussed their group’s largely successful and ongoing efforts in the Twin Cities to help ensure that people of color are included in the labor force on public projects such as the Vikings stadium and within agencies such as the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Several presenters stressed that the success of these efforts hinged on multiple factors, among them the willingness of a core group of community members committed to affecting positive change who were willing to meet on a weekly basis; the willingness of people of color and their allies to participate in planning and other meetings at the local level to ensure that decision makers within corporate entities, unions and government are held accountable for finding effective ways of meeting hiring goals for people of color and women and are transparent in the planning, hiring and other processes; and the creation of multi-racial and multi-interest coalitions among various area groups, agencies, and individuals.
Specifically, people are needed right now in Duluth to work on advancing racial equity here at home in two important ways. First, a group of people is needed who will work on equitable employment in major projects in the works for the Duluth area, such as the DTA Multimodal Transit Center. Second, a group needs to be formed to focus on a plan for increasing workforce participation by people of color and begin to develop strategy to begin to correct those policies and practices that have led to widespread disparity in education, health care, housing and criminal justice as well.
Addressing institutional racism cannot be done unless we all step up and do our part. While being an ally means learning about privilege, it also means rolling up your sleeves and doing the work of undoing racism. The time has come to put the spirit of so many wonderful community events like the Martin Luther King Jr. March and Commemoration into action by getting involved in this effort now. Don’t just talk about not being racist, get involved and make this community a better place for everyone. Think big. Jot down your ideas for ending systemic racism. Share them and let’s create a better Duluth.
Duluthian Reyna Crow has a degree in economics from the University of