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To make sure everyone succeeds, we must provide equity and opportunity

While the job market in Minneapolis is reportedly booming in certain sectors, there are many individuals who remain unemployed, underemployed and, in some cases, uncounted.

A July 2 MinnPost Glean item linked to a story reporting that the Twin Cities is enjoying the lowest unemployment rate of any large metropolitan area in the country. However, it failed to mention that the 13-county metropolitan area has the largest racial disparities in employment in the United States. 

While the job market in Minneapolis is reportedly booming in certain sectors, there are many individuals who remain unemployed, underemployed and, in some cases, uncounted. To ensure that all members of our community succeed, we need to develop solutions that provide equity and opportunity for everyone.

According to the 2013 “oneMinneapolis” report by the Minneapolis Foundation, 77 percent of whites in the Twin Cities are employed, compared to only 52 percent of blacks and 39 percent of American Indians. In addition, a white person in the Twin Cities is three times as likely as a black to be hired, regardless of education level, according to the Economic Policy Institute. These statistics illustrate that there is a racial divide in our city that has long been perpetuated by lack of access and lack of solutions to ending the cycle of poverty and dependence on assistance.

Demographic shift

What these statistics don’t take into account is the demographic shift under way in Minnesota that will dramatically change the racial landscape of the area. According to Wilder Research, by 2020 there will be a 42 percent increase in the amount of working-age people of color. By 2040, people of color will make up nearly 45 percent of working-age people in the Twin Cities. The sooner we embrace this shift as our future, the better equipped we will be to develop solutions that will enable regional economic growth, while leveling the playing field and providing opportunity for future generations to be the source of our economic vitality.

I recently found a map of Minneapolis from 1935 that featured various designations for parts of the city such as middle-class neighborhoods, lower-middle-class neighborhoods and “slums.” The slum portion of the map stated the area was populated by “Negros” and “foreign-born” individuals. The sections remain much the same today as they were then.

Expand work-force development programs

I challenge the city and county to stop funding programs that have outlived their usefulness and to focus their efforts on expanding work-force development programs that prepare and place low-income minorities and women into jobs and careers in key growth sectors such as construction and health care with the marketable skills the private sector wants. This will reduce the inequities of the region that place us No. 1 in the country for disparities between whites and people of color.

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We need to change the formula because the current efforts are getting us the current results.

The fact that the overall unemployment rate in the Twin Cities has decreased to 4 percent is a step in the right direction. However, despite good times and bad, over the last 25 years the disparities between black and white in the local economy have persisted and worsened. We need that reality to change not just for black people, but for the future health of the Twin Cities economy.

George Blackwell is the chairman of the board of Summit Academy OIC, a nonprofit accredited work-force development training center in Minneapolis.


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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/29/2014 - 08:47 am.

    While your observations are correct in the main, you discount the fact that government hiring constitutes the majority of jib gains.

    Admittedly, I have no figures to back it up, but anecdotal experience and lefty politicians tell me the public sector should and does favor minority hiring.

    Also, given Minnesota’s national prominence in the academic achievement gap between white and black students I wonder how valuable the Economic Policy Institute’s data is for the Twin Cities.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 07/29/2014 - 09:19 am.

    More immigrants

    Now that we’re no longer a sovereign nation, and given Keith Ellison’s call for bringing to Minnesota even more of the young people flooding across the open Southern border than are already here, what will happen to the education and employment gaps that are so unacceptable now?

    Do you think Ellison is unaware of the existing white-nonwhite gaps in education and employment? Do you think he wants the gaps to widen for some reason? What could he possibly be thinking?

  3. Submitted by jody rooney on 07/29/2014 - 12:48 pm.

    No wonder public discourse is at such an low ebb

    Mr. Swift my observation is that while the “they had to hire a minority” is a great excuse for not getting a job when there were better qualified candidates.

    While hiring a minority may be something hiring managers are encouraged to do you would be surprised how fewer actually do hire someone who doesn’t look just like them. The latest scam is group interviews which of course allows for discriminatory group dynamics once the candidate leaves the room, so closet racists are protected.

    All you have to do is stroll through a government office and see if the faces you see match the demographics of the community. So don’t let the myth of EEO hiring distract you from the fact that it doesn’t actually happen all that often.

    Mr. Tester – it’s a big country. If you are so concerned about these gaps go tutor at an inner city school. Do as one of my friends did who was a social worker for a district with a high minority population she showed up at children’s houses where the parents were shall we say “not prepared” to get the children ready and picked up the kids, brought them breakfast that she made at home and got them to school. This just wasn’t one or two times this was many.

    I certainly missed the part about not being sovereign, but we sure have been down on compassionate.

  4. Submitted by Raj Maddali on 07/30/2014 - 08:53 am.

    Plenty of Opportunity

    If you can’t find opportunity in this state and this country, despite ALL of the negatives, then you are climbing up the wrong tree.

    And i’m no conservative ideologue.

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