Last week, a group of black community leaders unveiled the United Black Legislative Agenda at the State Capitol. Amid solutions for criminal justice and black immigrant justice, the agenda proposed that the Legislature reserve $75 million to fund black-owned businesses.
Citing evidence that black business owners are more likely to hire employees of color, the coalition hopes this capital fund will lessen Minnesota’s pervasive economic disparities. Currently, white and Asian households in Minnesota have a median income double that of African-American ones.
Rather than let state officials allocate the proposed funds, the United Black Legislative Agenda recommends that a board of experienced community development organizations and business owners should form to allocate the funds.
The agenda’s other proposals include a ban on grand juries and the restoration of voting rights for felons.
Gov. Mark Dayton has fully endorsed these proposals. In a special session last year, Dayton pressed the Legislature to address unemployment benefits for steelworkers, the Real ID law and racial justice. Lawmakers have addressed the former two issues, and it is high time for them to prioritize the needs of black community members.
To date, the United Black Legislative Agenda is the strongest and most substantive set of policy proposals to address racial disparities in Minnesota, and we join Dayton in fully endorsing it. In particular, we believe the agenda’s emphasis on community solutions lays the groundwork for equitable and effective solutions to racial disparities.
We urge the state Legislature to compromise, collaborate and advocate to ensure the United Black Legislative Agenda becomes law.