Expand Human Rights Enforcement in Minnesota
By the Council on Black Minnesotans
Fifty years ago, on July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson displayed courage and innovation by taking the unprecedented national step to attack the heart of America’s close friendship with discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin by enacting the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Minnesotans such as Roy Wilkins, Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Vice President Walter Mondale played a huge role with bringing about this historic day.
In fact prior to the passage of the civil rights act, Minnesota passed the Minnesota State Act for Fair Employment Practices in 1955, which prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, creed, religion, or national origin and in 1961 passed laws to prohibit discrimination in mortgage lending and in the sale, rental, or lease of real property.
These acts banned discrimination and represented the beginning of the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of many in the costly and painstaking journey to build a society with equal access and opportunity for all. It also provided an external control mechanism to move America from absolute prejudice to tolerance. This new found tolerance provided a plethora of social, political, and economic opportunities for all Americans regardless of how you were socially constructed (race, color, creed, religion, or national origin).
However, today the cry for equity (fairness) goes unheard by policy makers and others. The plethora of disparities reports document the fact that something is amidst with the administrative application of state civil rights and equal opportunity laws; that constructs matters again in Minnesota.
On the anniversary of the historic signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Minnesota Legislative Leaders ignored carefully crafted legislation that would correct Minnesota’s dismal commitment to civil rights enforcement under the auspices of Minnesota Human right s enforcement in recent years. Instead of taking corrective action to reverse growing disparities and address the marketplace cry for fairness, the legislature has chosen to:
• Only provide an informational hearing on human rights enforcement in the House of Representatives,
• Not grant a public hearing on human rights legislation
• Continue a no net increase in funding policy for our Department of Human Rights,
• Ignore the 2011 Minnesota Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report that stated, “The lack of resources for civil rights enforcement in the state has worsened, leaving Minnesota in a “crisis mode,”
• Continue to allow complaints to linger in the Department of Human Rights for three years or more unresolved,
• Continue to assign more equal access and opportunity mandates to the Department of Human Rights (Viking Stadium, DMC, Bonding, Same Sex Marriage, Minimum Wage, Ban the Box, etc.) with no new money or staff,
• Continue to only allow the Commissioner of the Department Human Rights to give priority to three of the Department’s administrative functions.
This benign neglect does not match the values, spirit or history of Minnesota’s human rights enforcement approach. This state’s history of a strong commitment to human rights dates back to her origins. Minnesota entered the union as a free state and was among the first to answer the call to fight in the civil war. This state was the home of Dred Scott, whose Supreme Court decision is credited for building the momentum for the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments of the U.S. constitution.
Minnesota established the first human rights office in the nation. The legacy of Governors LeVander and Anderson, Vice Presidents Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, Civil Rights Leader Roy Wilkins and other iconic Minnesotans are built on the establishment of strong civil rights enforcement in our state.
The Minnesota legislature and governor need to display the courage and innovation of President Lyndon B. Johnson demonstrated 50 years ago by acting on House File 2173 Senate File 2730 when the session reconvenes. These bills will strengthen Minnesota’s human rights enforcement approach to respond to the marketplace cry for equity (fairness) and to lay the foundation for the eradication of the plethora of disparities driven by the poor administrative application of this state’s human/civil rights and equal opportunity laws.
Let’s show the world that constructs don’t matters in Minnesota and return to the spirit and courage of those who labored so tirelessly to make equal access and opportunity a practice. Let’s pass House File 2173 and Senate File 2730 to move our state Beyond Tolerance to Allophilia (loving or liking of the other).
The Minnesota Legislature created the Council on Black Minnesotans (www.councilonblackmn.com) in 1980 to ensure that people of African heritage fully and effectively participate in and equitably benefit from the political, social, and economic resources, policies and procedures of the State of Minnesota.