Voices for Racial Justice

What we ALL should know about the 2021 legislative session and the state budget if we care about ending racial disparities and structural racism in Minnesota

Voices for Racial Justice  envisions a world without racism that honors the culture, knowledge, power and healing of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). We believe that we will achieve racial justice through an ecological model of organizing  that reflects this vision by caring for the soil. By “ecological,” we mean the ability to see ourselves in others, and all of us in deep connection with our surroundings. By taking care of the soil, we mean all of us attending to the needs of each other through a healing justice framework grounded in culture,  community, and shared learning opportunities. We see the “soil” as all of us, the People.

As we prepare for the 2021  legislative session, there are a few things we should know. For instance,  we should know the legislative process, by design,  is not representing us or making things better for us, but is  keeping the situation of structural racism as it is and has been. We should know that our BIPOC and low wealth communities do not have the luxury of time to wait until  our voting power translates into political and policy power.  We should know that even legislators who ‘get it’ are still far away from the transformations that need to occur to have a different Minnesota. A Minnesota where the color of your skin does not define access to opportunities to succeed and have a happy life.

We should know that historically, even when BIPOC communities are successful in advocating for policy proposals, the implementation process is done by agencies built to keep oppressive systems in place. We should know that the legislative process is confusing, unnecessarily complicated, lengthy, boring, and not life-giving by design. This makes many of our legislators out of touch with BIPOC communities and the policy decisions they make out of context. Decisions are made without  us and then they wonder why, and say it is our fault that “we do not show up.” 

We know that this year is a budget year and that we have a composition at the legislature where fundamental differences of  worldviews are going to continue clashing. This will get in  the way of agreeing on basic legislative proposals designed to help people in need. We should know that despite these differences in worldviews, most legislators have something in common: their lack of a clear understanding of race and class experiences, how race and class intersect, and how to design policies that respond to these complexities. Lastly, we should know that COVID-19 is impacting everybody, but not equally; and, by now, we know that it is deepening racial disparities. 

Despite all that we know, this year, we have the opportunity to advance racial justice if the budget and policies proposed intentionally address racial disparities and how to eliminate them. One example of this is the House Select Committee on Racial Justice Report to the Legislature.  It is clear that while the legislature has overcome the challenge of naming racial equity as important, the implementation of racial equity is still a serious challenge. Racial equity requires a vision and clear steps taken to reach that vision. The state budget must articulate a vision of racial equity and explain how it plans to bring Minnesota closer to that vision.

One tool to help with that is the Racial Equity Impact Assessment, which asks  ALL OF US  to think through the following questions as WE ALL prepare OUR statewide budget: (1) Who is most impacted by the budget and how are those who are most impacted being engaged in the analysis and implementation of the budget? (2) What racial disparities are being addressed by the budget and what is the racial equity purpose of the budget? (3) How does the proposed budget plan to eliminate racial disparities (what does the budget seek to accomplish and how does the budget plan to assess whether it can achieve its identified racial equity goals)? (4) Does the budget have potential negative impacts (if so, what adjustments does it make to achieve a racially equitable outcome)? (5) Is the budget sustainably successful (does it ensure that adequate funding, implementation strategies, and accountability mechanisms are in place)?

The state budget is one of the most powerful tools WE have to make racial equity a priority in Minnesota. Therefore, the  budget must answer those questions while being proposed and  approved by the legislature. ONLY when a clear plan to address structural racism is articulated in the state budget and that plan is connected to a vision that honors the culture, knowledge, power and healing of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), will our priorities translate into a thriving Minnesota for ALL OF US.