Census shows black income now in red

The U.S. census reveals income for black Minnesotans dropped significantly this year.

Jared Rogers-Martin

Remember when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported a significant drop in the population of walleye in Lake Mille Lacs and caused Gov. Mark Dayton to propose a special legislative session in order to determine the economic consequences for resort owners on the lake?
 
Well, last Thursday, a United States census report revealed that the population of blacks in Minnesota experienced a drop in median household income so severe that it increased the poverty rate in the demographic by 5 percent — but nary a word has been released about a special legislative session to help fix this economic crisis.
 
Now, when Kanye West told America on national TV that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” we laughed and shrugged, thinking it might be true.
 
But last week a much more accurate quote came from state Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, who said, “Fish are more important than black people.”  
 
Between 2013 and 2014, the median income of black households in the state of Minnesota dropped to the 45th lowest in the country. Every Southern state except Kentucky had a higher median income for black households in 2014 than our state did. 
 
Those numbers spell crisis.
 
Dayton did not immediately provide a response to the U.S. census data. In reality, that’s only fair. In the report, there are myriad charts and tables slapped next to academic speak. But something needs to happen to address this issue. 
 
The state government of Minnesota is very large. If we need to provide an immediate reaction to the U.S. census data, we could use our state government to hire more black workers to fill senior positions. 
 
The solution shouldn’t stop there, though. The median income statistic suggests this problem is not limited to senior-level government employees. There are systemic issues regarding how the state is teaching, developing and providing opportunities for our minority populations.
 
The least that Minnesota can do is treat this problem as a crisis with at least as much value as the population of lake fish. We need to call a special legislative session to get ideas swimming — even if it seems like an upstream battle.
 
While I doubt this issue is news to the state’s minority communities, one of the saddest parts of this U.S. census report is that this is not the first time we’ve heard about the state’s income disparity calamity. However, Minnesota’s reaction has been mild. 
 
The fact that our state cannot seem to support the voices of communities in need makes me question the effectiveness of our legislating body. These communities are made out of people — and the way we refuse to recognize the problems of our citizens smells fishy.