Tag Archives: racial disparities

Minnesota Jim Crow confirmed by Met Council analysis

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Diving Deeper: Understanding Disparities between Black and White Residents in the Twin Cities Region (Met Council), p. 7

A new report from the Met Council takes a deep dive into statistics, juggling 10 different demographic factors (e.g. age, education, immigration) to isolate one variable: race. The report finds that “underlying demographic differences cannot explain away our region’s disparities in employment, income, and homeownership between Black and White residents.” One factor can explain the differences: continuing institutional and structural racism, which is maintained and supported by conscious and unconscious personal racism. Continue reading


Filed under housing, human rights, race, work

Stopping private prison profiteering in Minnesota

Reverend Armstrong

Reverend Ovester Armstrong, Jr. speaks to #StopCCA rally

“They are not building these prisons to stay empty,” Reverend Ovester Armstrong, Jr. told protesters at the Minnesota State Office Building on March 22. “They are building these prisons to fill them up.” Inside, the House Public Safety Committee held hearings on re-opening a private prison in Appleton. The private prison is owned by the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), the largest prison company in the United States.

“We should help people, not make money off of them,” said Reverend Armstrong. “We should not let someone’s life be held hostage to a dollar bill.” Continue reading

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Filed under prisons, race

Why I keep writing about Black Lives Matter


Black Lives Matter 1Sometimes it seems like I’m talking – and writing – about Black Lives Matter all the time. Let me explain why.

Back in 1903, W.E.B. DuBois wrote The Souls of Black Folk. He began the book with these lines:

“HEREIN lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.”

Today, despite all of the organizing, all of the marching, all of the blood shed and people martyred in the civil rights movement of the 20th century, the problem of the color line is still the problem of our time, the problem of the 21st century, in the United States and around the world. And today, Black Lives Matter embodies the challenge of the new civil rights movement. Continue reading

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Filed under race

The not-so-hidden racism of school discipline in Minneapolis and St. Paul

Total number of disciplinary incidents, including suspensions and expulsions, reported by Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts over the past five years

Total number of disciplinary incidents, including suspensions and expulsions, reported by Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts over the past five years

Last week’s news included the horrific video of a police officer throwing a 16-year-old girl across the school room — apparently because she only put away her cell phone, but refused to give it to her teacher. Bad as it is, the video shows only the tip of the iceberg of racially disparate school discipline, which persists across the country and here in the Twin Cities as well.

Vox compiled a series of seven charts showing racism in school discipline, using national statistics. I wondered how Minneapolis and St. Paul would compare, so I went to the Minnesota Department of Education website to find the numbers.

Vox reports that black students are suspended or expelled at higher rates throughout their school years, across the nation. That’s also true in Minneapolis and St. Paul. African American students are disciplined at a far higher rate than any other race or ethnicity reported. Here are the breakdowns for Minneapolis and St. Paul:

Mpls discipline disparities

St. Paul discipline disparities

The Minnesota Department of Education figures show the total number of “disciplinary incidents” by race and ethnicity. These include suspensions, expulsions and other reported incidents.

In Minneapolis, black students make up 37 percent of the student population, but 75 percent of the disciplinary incidents. In St. Paul, black students make up 30 percent of the student population, but 73 percent of the disciplinary incidents. In Minneapolis, Native American students make up 4 percent of the student population, and 8 percent of the disciplinary incidents.

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights reported last year on racial and other disparities in school discipline. They found disproportionately high suspension/expulsion rates for students of color, disproportionate discipline for girls of color, disproportionate suspension of students with disabilities, and disproportionate arrests and referrals to law enforcement by race and disability status.

Racial disparities in discipline begin early and continue throughout school years. The disparities are not explained by differences in behavior. Vox explains:

“A common reaction to the discipline disparities is to suggest that something other than race is at work — that they’re a function of poverty, or that black students are simply more likely to misbehave. But analyses of the data have found that isn’t true. Black students and white students are sent to the principal’s office at similar rates; states report they commit more serious offenses, such as carrying weapons or drugs at school, at similar rates; and when surveyed about their own behavior, they report similar patterns. Even in cases in which black students do disproportionately act out — a 2008 analysis found twice as many black boys as white boys reported bringing a gun to school — they’re more likely to be punished than white students who committed the same infraction.”

Part of the problem is in the presence of police in the schools as School Resource Officers. Writing in the Hechinger Report, Beth Hawkins said that “even controlling for socioeconomic status, students at schools where there is an SRO are at least five times more likely than their peers to be arrested and sent into the juvenile justice system by the officers.”

Overuse of punishment to respond to discipline problems also may be correlated to the lack of counseling resources. Minnesota has one counselor for every 792 students, the third-worst ratio in the entire country.

Failure to educate students also contributes to racial disparities in discipline. Dropout Nation blogger Rishawn Biddle, writing about Minneapolis racial disparities in discipline last year, identified both a cause and a solution:

“[The] district is dealing miserably with the underlying illiteracy that is the key culprit for student misbehavior. …  This means intensive reading remediation, especially in the early grades when discipline issues can be headed off … Systemic reform, in short, is key to reducing overuse of suspensions for the long haul.”

In a press release from ISAIAH last year, Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds said the statistics on racially disparate suspensions “should break our hearts, and compel us all – especially the faith community – to act in a transformative way.” It’s time, and long past time, to act.

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Filed under education, race