Building a thriving, prosperous Minnesota through racial equity

February 24, 2021 | By Acooa Ellis, Amelia Hardy, Charlie Weaver, James Burroughs, James Momon, Lee Anderson, Matt Lewis, Reba Dominski, and Shannon Smith Jones

Racism exists in all aspects of life, greatly affecting our overall economy and well-being as a state.

According to the ALANA Community Brain Trust, the opportunity cost of racism in Minnesota, via loss of income, lack of home ownership to tax burdens and business losses, is estimated to be $287 billion dollars. As a state, we have grown familiar with commonly cited disparities, maybe even comfortable. But on May 25, 2020, we saw what we can never unsee – the stark reality of the systemic injustice that plagues Black Minnesotans daily.  

After the killing of George Floyd, leaders from more than 80 Minnesota companies ranging in size and industry came together to form the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity. While many have stepped into this space of racial justice in response to the events of last summer, our coalition’s approach is new. We meet this moment of reckoning in earnest, bringing together a cross-functional group of leaders to fuel a movement of sustained, real and meaningful action toward a better Minnesota specifically with and for Black Minnesotans. 

As employers, community leaders, and Minnesotans, we play an integral role and have a serious stake in addressing these disparities. We believe it is our responsibility to create change, which is why we are pooling our influence, capabilities, and funds to remove systemic barriers and increase access to opportunity for Black Minnesotans through our four pillars: workplace, philanthropy, allyship and policy. 

We have begun by taking a hard look internally, assessing member organizations’ internal policies, practices, and philanthropic endeavors to ensure they yield equitable opportunities and outcomes for Black Minnesotans. We have also put together an allyship toolkit for our members, designed to educate and inspire people to take direct action and get involved in efforts to advance our mission.

In addition, we have identified issue areas aligned with our desired long-term outcomes as policy priorities for 2021. This state legislative session has been focused on mitigating the acute impacts of COVID-19, most of which already existed for a disproportionate number of Black Minnesotans, from housing instability to gaps in education opportunities to a lack of access to technology. That is why we are actively supporting legislation aimed at expanding access to quality childcare and education opportunities; expansion of access to and use of broadband service and devices; and increasing investments in housing stability.

Long term, we aim to utilize our foundational structures and resources around workplace, philanthropy, allyship, and policy to accelerate progress against a set of interdependent goals toward economic mobility and prosperity. It is a hefty lift – but one that we know we can tackle with the perspectives and people we have brought together and in partnership with Black Minnesotans. 

To Black Minnesotans: We are penning these priorities and commitments so that you may hold us to them. As we build out our strategic plans over the next year, we will be listening to you, measuring progress against our goals and amplifying the work that is already being done, rather than simply duplicating efforts. With our collective resources, energy and knowledge we can achieve lasting change. 

To Minnesota’s business leaders: Join us as we move beyond diversity and inclusion initiatives to fully address racism from both in and outside of our places of work. While our areas of business differ, we all desire a thriving, prosperous state – and that means building true racial equity in Minnesota. 

The Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity Steering Committee:
Acooa Ellis, Greater Twin Cities United Way
Amelia Hardy, Best Buy
Charlie Weaver, Minnesota Business Partnership
James Burroughs, Children’s Minnesota
James Momon, 3M
Lee Anderson, General Mills
Matt Lewis, Greater MSP
Reba Dominski, U.S. Bank
Shannon Smith Jones, Hope Community