Traders Unite!

New business coalition is investing in racial justice

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 homeownership, tax burdens and business losses, is estimated to be $287 billion.

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 death 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 tool kit 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 child care 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.

James Burroughs is vice president and chief equity and inclusion officer, Children’s Minnesota. Lee Anderson is director of state government relations, General Mills. Reba Dominski is executive vice and chief social responsibility officer, U.S. Bank. They are co-chairs of the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity Steering Committee and submit this statement on behalf of its other members: Acooa Ellis, senior vice president for community impact, Greater Twin Cities United Way; Amelia Hardy, vice president for inclusion and diversity, Best Buy; Charlie Weaver, executive director, Minnesota Business Partnership; James Momon, vice president and chief equity officer, 3M; Matt Lewis, vice president for strategic initiatives, Greater MSP; Shannon Smith Jones, executive director, Hope Community.

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