We call this Racial Justice Week, honoring the struggle for justice in Minnesota that has been happening for decades, and knowing that the work continues well past this week. But we name this week to name our power to make a difference for all Minnesotans as we share in the commitment to creating a more just state.
What might justice in Minnesota look like? It would build on some of the progress already made, through civil rights activists, tribal leaders, immigrants rights groups, and many others. Justice would break down the structural barriers, invisible to some but very visible to those who bump into structures of exclusion every day. Barriers like:
- Asking job applicants about criminal history on an initial application, and keeping them from even being considered. Having a job is a key factor in preventing recidivism.
- School discipline procedures that suspend, expel, and even criminalize students — disproportionately students of color — rather than offer them the guidance and support to positively change behavior.
- Having to choose between going to work sick and staying home because a job does not offer paid sick days.
These and other roadblocks prevent many Minnesotans from accessing the opportunities to learn, work, and care for their families.
Voices for Racial Justice names the power of our voices to change the narrative. This space will be one to share stories of struggle, but also strategies for change. The 2013 Racial Equity Agenda that will be released this week highlights some of those strategies. We will use this space to deepen the framework the Agenda offers, sharing progress at the Legislature, as well as in local communities.
One place to start amplifying your voice for racial justice is at the Capitol Rotunda on January 30. Come listen to the music of Brother Ali, the spoken word of Chilli Lor, and the voices of our community leaders. Then add your voice as we visit Legislative Champions for Racial Justice to thank them for their leadership and share our ideas for continuing the work for justice. Be a part of a power meeting to suggest equitable transit development or changes that would limit gun violence in our communities. Attend a committee hearing and let legislators know that you care about how the Health Exchange works for your community.
This is just one week, but it sits in the middle of powerful work for racial justice, as recent as the successful Voices for Voting Rights campaign, and the leadership all of us can contribute as Voices for Racial Justice in the many weeks to come.