The murder of George Floyd created a moment of reflection and rededication to racial equality. But moments are ephemeral. Americans have a notoriously short attention span.
How do we maintain momentum so that the moment becomes a movement?
How do we translate the demands of protests into the domain of policy?
Antiracist ideas are activated in antiracist policy, especially in local elections.
We focus on criminal justice, economic justice, environmental justice, education, housing, health, immigration, and voting rights. We talk about problems, but we don’t stop there. We talk about solutions. Who is getting it right?
Can Truth and Reconciliation Work in Minneapolis?
Joy Marsh Stephens talks about the Minneapolis Truth and Reconciliation process.
We know the statistics.
There are opportunity gaps in education.
By the fourth grade, 50% of all Minnesota children reach reading proficiency, only 31% of Black children are reading proficiently. Minnesota enjoys an 83% high school graduation rate overall, but a 67% graduation rate among Black students.
There is an income gap.
The median household income among White Minnesotans is $71,415. But the median income among Black households is $34,879. The poverty rate for White residents is 7%, while the poverty rate is 28% for Black Minnesotans.
There’s a housing gap.
Black home ownership is 22%, about half the national average. Black renters are cost-burdened. 29% of Back residents pay 30 to 50% of their income on rent. And another 27% of Black residents pay more than 50% of their income on rent.
And there is a criminal justice gap.
Although Black folks only make up 19% of Minnesota’s population, they account for 66% of the use of force by police.
Minnesota has a deep history of racial disparities from slavery to redlining, to mass incarceration.
So, how do we move forward in a way that accounts for past acts, examines current structural racism, and envisions a better future?
There are models that work. A key example of that is the Truth and Reconciliation commission. These commissions were used in South Africa after apartheid, and in Canada, in the wake of the damage caused by Residential Schools. Now, that model is being put to the test in Minneapolis.
Joy Marsh Stephens is the Director of the Division of Race and Equity in the City of Minneapolis. She stopped by to talk about the Truth and Reconciliation process in Minneapolis.
About Joy Marsh Stephens:
Joy Marsh Stephens directs the Division of Race and Equity in the City of Minneapolis. Since joining the City in 2015, Joy has focused on growing the capacity of City staff to integrate racial equity into everyday decision-making, business planning, inclusion activities, and policymaking. Joy partners closely with cities, counties and state agencies across the nation that are also committed to advancing racial equity. Through the federally funded ReCAST Minneapolis program, Joy leads a coalition of staff and community members in reversing the harm of systemic racism through trauma literacy, building resilient communities and shifting systems towards more equitable outcomes.
Joy comes to the City of Minneapolis with over 20 years of experience leading large-scale systems change initiatives in multiple sectors including financial services, healthcare, education, and government. Most recently, Joy led domestic and international systems integration and acquisition projects at the enterprise level for UnitedHealth Group. She enjoys an active public life as well, having volunteered in leadership roles in numerous nonprofit boards, schools and other community groups with a focus on driving racially equitable policy at the municipal and state level for over 15 years.
Joy holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
Learn More About Joy Marsh Stephens and the Truth and Reconciliation process:
Joy Marsh Stephens on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joymstephens Division of Race and Equity: http://www2.minneapolismn.gov/coordinator/Equity/index.htm
The Most Powerful, Invisible Position in the State, with De’Vonna Pittman
A complete transcript of the interview can be found here: https://antiracistvoter.com/devonna-pittman/
Want to be an antiracist voter? Educate yourself, and then vote all the way down the ballot.
Who is your County Commissioner? Go ahead. Think about it. I’ll wait.
There’s a good chance that you have no idea who your county commissioner is. And yet, in Hennepin County, Minnesota, the county commission controls a $2.5-billion-dollar budget.
Criminal justice, economic justice, environmental justice, education, housing, health, and voting rights all begin with local governments.
Despite the importance of local elections, only 30% of eligible voters vote in local elections. In many local elections, voter turnout can be in the single digits. And, though 60% of eligible voters vote in presidential elections, many voters don’t vote all the way down the ballot, skipping local candidates and ballot initiatives.
Today, we’re going to meet one woman who wants to use the office of County Commissioner to deal with some of the disparities in our community.
De’Vonna Pittman is familiar with the issues in Hennepin County. She works as the Disparity Reduction Coordinator for the county. She is also active in her community. She founded the Minnesota Black Author’s Expo. And, she is a candidate for the Hennepin County Commission, District One.
A complete transcript of our conversation can be found below.
Learn More About De’Vonna Pittman:
De’Vonna Pittman’s campaign website: https://peopleforpittman.com
De’Vonna Pittman on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PeopleForPittman
De’Vonna Pittman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/People4Pittman
De’Vonna Pittman on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/PeopleForPittman
Your Voting Rights, with Jorge Vasquez, Advancement Project
You can find a full transcript of the conversation here: https://antiracistvoter.com/jorge-vasquez/
Voting should be safe, simple, and exercised by every citizen. But, what happens when it is not?
Pop quiz! When is the 2020 US election?
If you said, Tuesday, November 3rd, ding, ding, ding, you’re right.
I would have also accepted the answer, today, September 18, or any day between September 18 and November 3. Let me explain.
In most states, you can request an absentee ballot today. When your absentee ballot arrives, you can go ahead and vote.
In Minnesota, early, in-person voting starts September 18. You can vote in person at your county election office.
And, some cities and towns offer in-person absentee voting. Check with your city clerk's office for more information.
So, important question, what’s your plan to vote? When will you vote? How will you vote? How will you get there? Who else will you take with you?
Voter Suppression is Alive and Well
The 15th Amendment was passed in 1870. It says simply that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
When combined with the 19th Amendment recognizing women’s right to vote, it should be clear that every citizen has the right to vote.
Seems simple, right? But it has never been that simple. After the passage of the 15th Amendment, states put up new barriers to voting from literacy tests to poll taxes.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 authorized the federal government to enforce the right to vote, but it did not end voter suppression.
For example, voter ID laws disproportionately affect black and brown voters. Nationally, around 25% of Black citizens of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of Whites.
Laws that ban ex-felons from voting disproportionately impact Black and Brown voters. One out of every 13 Black votes lost their right to vote because of a felony conviction, compared to one out of every 56 non-Black voters.
How do we protect our right to vote? What steps do we need to take to make sure our vote is counted? What do we do if we encounter problems when we are trying to cast our vote?
Today’s conversation is with Jorge Vasquez, the Director, Power and Democracy Program at Advancement Project National Office. Advancement Project is a next generation, multi-racial civil rights organization.
Learn More About Jorge Vasquez, Advancement Project:
MN Secretary of State, Elections and Voting: https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting
Advancement Project: http://advancementproject.org/home
Advancement Project on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AdvancementProject
Advancement Project on Twitter: https://twitter.com/adv_project
Advancement Project on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/advancementproject
Advancement Project on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/advprojectdc
A Solution to Undocumented Immigration, with Laz Ayala, Illegal the Project
For extended show notes, see https://antiracistvoter.com/laz-ayala.
We don’t have an illegal immigration problem. We have a systemic illegal employment problem.
Picture this. It’s June 16, 2015. Lazaro “Laz” Ayala is standing in his living room. The speaker on the television is saying “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Laz, a successful businessman in southern Oregon, feels the sting of those words. Laz arrived in the United States as a 14-year-old boy, driven from his home by civil war in El Salvador.
The words on the television are dehumanizing for all immigrants. This is an important concept. When a class of people are dehumanized, it excuses a host of behaviors, from separating families, to locking babies in cages.
The words weaponize race as a tool to divide Americans. They are a threat, not just to some Americans, but to our democracy.
Laz waits for the response to come. He waits for community leaders to act. He waits for celebrities to speak out. Someone has to do something.
Laz waited for a year. Then he realized that he is someone. He has to act.
He recognized that his business could suffer. With the state of the debate over undocumented workers, he even worried that he might lose his life. But he pushed ahead.
He wrote a book to tell his story. The book is Illegal: One immigrant's life or death journey to the American dream. He made a documentary film, allowing other immigrants to tell the story from their perspectives.
And, realizing that it would take an engaged community to make a difference, he launched an organization, Illegal the Project.
Learn More About Laz Ayala and Illegal the Project:
Illegal The Project: https://www.illegaltheproject.org
Book: Illegal: One immigrant's life or death journey to the American dream: https://amzn.to/32EzClz
Report: Undocumented But In Demand: An Assessment of the Labor Crisis and Illegal Employment System in the US: https://02e23a5c-043f-4516-9f77-3f8c3fa3a144.filesusr.com/ugd/4a438a_98b44710f5c84231afafa4bd3e614c43.pdf
Racial Wealth Inequality and Black Asset Poverty, with Dr. Lori Latrice Martin
Extended shown notes and a full transcript can be found here: https://antiracistvoter.com/lori-latrice-martin/
The term systemic racism is redundant. Racism is systemic. It is a multi-level, multi-dimensional system of oppression.
On average, White families have a net worth of $171,000. The average Black family’s net worth is about one tenth of that, or $17,150. White families tend to have more assets, which can unlock opportunities such as education. Generally speaking, White families have the ability to absorb a greater financial blow such as an unexpected repair bill, healthcare costs, or loss of income.
Why is that?
Dr. Lori Latrice Martin takes us through the causes of the wealth gap and the consequences of racism. Dr. Martin is professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology at Louisiana State University.
Dr. Martin has published and edited more than 20 works on racial wealth inequality, Black asset poverty, and race and sports. Her latest book, America in Denial: How Race-Fair Public Policies Reinforce Inequality in America, is scheduled for publication in May 2021 with State University of New York (SUNY) Press.
In this conversation, Dr. Martin traces wealth inequality and Black asset poverty through racist policies from the exclusion of Black people from the GI Bill, to slavery.
Learn More about Dr. Lori Latrice Martin:
Dr. Martin’s LSU profile: https://www.lsu.edu/hss/sociology/people/faculty/faculty_profiles_new_2018/martin_lori.php
Dr. Martin’s Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/dr_lori_latrice
If We Want Better, We Have to Vote for Better, With Alberder Gillespie, Candidate Congressional District MN-04
For Alberder Gillespie, the time is now.
Alberder Gillespie is running for a seat in Congress, representing Minnesota’s 4th Congressional District. She’s been involved with the Democratic–Farmer–Labor (DFL) party for more than 17 years.
“It was my job to get more Democrats elected,” Alberder explains. “I can say now that there are Democrats in the Minnesota Senate, and our two State House Seats. I was involved, so much so, that I was inducted into the DFL Women’s Hall of Fame.”
Alberder’s qualifications include:
Inductee, Democratic–Farmer–Labor (DFL) Women’s Hall of Fame Former Leader, Girl Scouts of AmericaFormer Family Ministry CoordinatorFormer Board Member, Parent Teacher AssociationFormer Member, School Board, South Washington County SchoolsFormer Chair, Senate District 53Former Chair, Senate District 56Former Director, Sixth Congressional DistrictFormer Member, DFL State Central CommitteeMember, Presidential Advisory Board, University of MinnesotaBoard Member, South Washington Education FoundationCommissioner, Minnesota Amateur SportsDirector, Fourth Congressional DistrictGraduate, Purdue UniversityFounder of Black Women RisingAnd of course, Candidate, United States House of Representatives, Minnesota
Before the 2016 election, Alberder formed an organization called Black Women Rising. “I’ve been in this party for a long time. We’re always talked about how we could not get diverse voices at the table. That did not mesh with what I was hearing when I was out in communities.”
Alberder spoke with several leaders, including Toni Carter the first Black county commissioner in the state. “I told her that I know there are all these women of color who have all these skills. They want to run.” Carter challenged Alberder to bring these women together.
Alberder gathered thirty women together in her home. “I asked the question, how many of you are considering running for office? About 90% of the hands went up. And then I knew. There needs to be a structure, a way to support, guide, recruit, and train these women so that they can be successful.”
In 2016, Alberder ran for a state-level House office. “People had been asking me to run for years. I like recruiting, training, building capacity, building a farm team, and expanding our base. I’m a strategist.
“I ultimately decided to run, because I didn’t see the change I wanted to see. Because I wasn’t seeing the change, I thought, ‘Maybe I need a seat at the table.’”
“I was being asked before 2016 to run for Congress. But there are the boundaries and lines that are set for us.”
Alberder was not elected in 2016, but she had built a coalition of activated voters who are still engaged today.
She’s running in the primary for a seat currently occupied by Rep. Betty McCollum. Betty has been in office for 20 years. In 2018, she won the primary with 91% of the vote, and the general election with 66% of the vote. So, why run against the incumbent?
“My decision to run for office is not about Betty. I’m running for something. What pushed me to run in today is the same thing that pushed me to run in 2016. But, it’s more urgent today.
“Because I’m on the inside of all of this, I can see the policies that are not being promoted. I can see the impact on the community when we ignore their issues.
“For me, what we saw in May with the murder of George Floyd, that was not new to me.”
Learn more about Alberder Gillespie:
Alberder Gillespie Campaign Website: https://www.gillespieforcongress.com/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Alberder4MN/Twitter: https://twitter.com/ForGillespie Black Women Rising: https://www.blackwomenrising.net/