Governor Mark Dayton made a strong and clear call to address the issues of economic disparity in an inclusive way…Below are key excerpts from his state of state address…
We must also take immediate action to begin to relieve the terrible and persistent racial inequalities imbedded in our society.
The median income for U.S. born African American families in Minnesota is 55 percent less than for white families, and their poverty rate is 41/2 times greater. The median income for Mexican-American families is 40 percent less than white families. Ojibwe family incomes are 56 percent lower. Somali family incomes are 71 percent lower than average white family incomes in Minnesota.
That is unacceptable.
And tragically, incidents of racial intolerance continue in Minnesota. In November, Asma Jama [Az-ma Jam-a] was attacked in a Coon Rapids Applebee’s because she was not speaking English, although she speaks three languages. Another woman smashed a glass beer mug across her face. Asma sustained cuts across her face that required 17 stitches. She said, and I quote:
“I [can’t] believe after all these years somebody hit me because I’m different. Somebody hit me because I was speaking a different language.”
She said she’s feeling ‘traumatized’ and doesn’t feel safe leaving her house alone.
“I’m actually thinking about moving out of Minnesota. I’m scared for my life. I don’t feel comfortable here anymore.”
I have invited Asma as my guest here tonight. I ask all of you to join me in showing her, and all Muslim-Minnesotans, the open arms and the respect they deserve. Azma? We’re very glad you’re a Minnesotan.
Two Sundays ago, the Lt. Governor and I paid one of the most profoundly painful site visits of my career. We went to a Mosque in Minneapolis, which had been vandalized just days before. The broken outside doors had been partially repaired. However, there were still holes in doors and walls inside the Mosque.
This despicable act of bigotry was even worse than others. It desecrated a place of worship.
A house of any religion should be sacrosanct. One of the most fundamental rights in our United States Constitution is the freedom to practice the faith of one’s own choosing – free from interference by government or anyone else.
In addition to being un-American, illegal, and immoral, this heinous deed had an even more searing effect. We saw children of ages five to fifteen had to walk by this damage on the way to their religious instruction classes. I said to the Lt. Governor, “What does this say to them about who they are? About their right to be who they are? About their acceptance by other Minnesotans, as they are?”
I urge all of us, as leaders of this state, to stand up and speak out together in denouncing any acts of racial or religious intolerance. Minnesota must be better than this.
We must also show our leadership by acting now to reduce the economic and other disparities in our state based upon race, religion, nationality, or disability status.
We cannot resolve these disparities in one legislative session, but we must begin now. Next week my Supplemental Budget will propose a significant initiative to provide better economic opportunities to Minnesotans of color all across our state.
I will be advancing some of my ideas; but it is not intended to be a complete package. I look forward to the ideas and initiatives that legislators will bring forward. I also invite community groups and civic organizations throughout Minnesota to bring forward their proposals. The final legislation should be as broadly inclusive as possible.
Obviously, state government cannot make these necessary changes alone. Last night, I urged the members of the Minnesota Chamber to review their companies’ hiring practices and consider how they could do more to provide the quality jobs that will reduce these disparities.
It’s time we stopped holding our schools and educators solely responsible for closing our state’s opportunity and achievement gaps. Every facet of our society has a part to play. All of us share that responsibility.
I want Minnesota state government to lead by example. We have made increasing the diversity in state agencies and services a top priority. When I took office, 8 percent of state employees were women and men of color. Now that number is 10 percent.
So, under the outstanding leadership of our terrific Chief of Staff, Jaime Tincher, we’re doubling down on state hiring practices.
Our goal is to double the percentage of minorities working in state government, when I leave office in January 2019, so that our diversity accurately reflects the diversity in Minnesota’s workforce.