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Promoting racial equity in local governments

Members of Rochester local organizations attend a webinar on how local governments can work towards racial equity.

Posted: Apr 5, 2018 7:16 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn.—
Community members and members of local organizations attended an online webinar together at the Diversity Council. The Center for Social Inclusion in the Twin Cities lead an online discussion as part of the 2017-2018 GreenStep Cities Workshop Series on understanding the relationship between racial equity in communities and the role of local governments. The webinar also introduced viewers to the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, an organization networking local and regional governments working to create racial equity and equal opportunities.

People in attendance included members of various government organizations, nonprofits, and service organizations in Rochester. The discussion was largely focused on how to address racial equity and disparities in the community.

Kylie Osterhus, a member of the political committee of the Sierra Club and coordinator of Women on Wednesdays, says "one thing I would like to see changed is having people who represent this community start talking about race equity more often and normalizing that conversation and helping change public policy to address that in our community."

The workshop happened to fall on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death. Executive director of the Diversity Council, Dee Sabol, says that is a perfect chance to have these conversations. "I think we have an opportunity right now, especially as we think about how this correlates with the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, to rethink how race is played out in communities—how it affects outcomes for different people," she explains.

Rick Morris, clean energy coordinator of the Sierra Club, also attended the workshop. He said it was great to learn about what approaches people are taking to racial equity in different parts of Minnesota. "I had no idea that this work on racial equity and inclusion was going on at an intergovernmental and local government level all around the state and throughout the country."

However, Morris mentions that one topic of dicussion is that the people involved in various equity initiatives are often white. "Inside our organizations, we all need to do the work to truly embrace diversity and to have equity within our ranks," he says. He continues to explain that local organizations need to "continually bring together folks who are impacted by those issues to be part of the solutions that are being created in Rochester and in Minnesota."

24/7 Wall Street compiled a report on the most and least equittable states. Minnesota was named the second least equittable state, and Iowa was named the fifth least equittable. The report analyzed the differences between white and black residents in areas including income, unemployment, homeownership, and incarceration.

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