“In a time of universal deceit -- telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” -- George Orwell
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Overview: Hello and welcome back to the blog! This week’s post addresses racial disparities in health and education, discusses the causes of these disparities, and introduces possible solutions for equitable education and health care.
Note: This post is longer than most, but I feel that the long introduction is necessary to understand the general standing of Minnesota on the topic of race.
The impacts of racism are everywhere in “the land of the free.” It is integrated into every part of American life: health, education, daily communication and interaction, employment . . . you name it. Race and racism is central to American culture, but for many, the issue of racism is invisible or nonexistent.
Especially in Minnesota, many people (including myself at one point) believe that we are protected under the blanket of “Minnesota Nice.” However, racism here is much stronger and worse than it is in most states.
In reality, this protective blanket is actually a cover up for deep-rooted racism. Unlike the South’s blatant, open expression of racism, Minnesota hides behind a social construct. Racism here lurks behind decades of segregation, discrimination, and racial steering (the practice of steering potential homebuyers to an estate given their race). All of these together have resulted in a culture that still separates whites from people of color geographically, politically, economically, and socially.
That is why Minnesota has been identified as the fourth-worst state for Black Americans. Here are some statistics from an article from 24/7 Wall Street, to prove it.
Although the death of George Floyd and hundreds of other people of color who were murdered by police kicked off discussions on race, the issue of race in Minnesota has been around since its founding -- people are just deciding to want to talk about it now.
So, let’s talk about it. Specifically, about the impacts of race on health and education.
How did we get here?
According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), “racial minorities are considerably less likely to receive medical care when needed and that when they do, the care tends to be inferior in quality.” Additionally, people of color are usually at a higher risk of developing lifelong health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, or HIV.
On the topic of education, Minnesota has one of the highest achievement gaps of the country. According to the Star Tribune, “In 2003, only 36% of African-American students graduated high school, while 79% of whites did. In 2018, the gap had narrowed, with 67% of African-American student graduating, compared to 88% of white students.
But, what are the causes of these racial discrepancies?
1. Socioeconomic inequality
The same practices of socioeconomic inequality that existed in the early 20th century are still in place today. According to a research paper from Drs. David R. Williams and Toni D. Rucker, “racial minorities are more likely to be employed in lower paying jobs without access to more comprehensive health insurance packages. [Additionally,] Minority groups also experience higher levels of unemployment, which can again hinder access to high quality health care.”
Minority groups have been pushed to a lower financial status from the beginning, and that is a difficult hole to climb out of. And, since the quality of health care is linked to financial stability and standing, minority groups are forced into a position in which they cannot receive the high-quality health support they need and deserve.
2. Bias from health care workers
Due to bias from health care workers, minorities who receive the same level of insurance as whites “still receive health care that can be regarded as subpar when compared with the level of care provided to non-Hispanic whites,” according to an IOM report.
These disparities within healthcare systems have deemed to be the result of implicit bias: unconscious racial bias, or racial bias held by someone who does not know they have it.
For example, a health care provider may provide lower rates for a black woman than for a white man despite the fact they show the same symptoms.
In the past, these discrepancies may have been purposeful, or actions exhibited through explicit bias: bias in which people are consciously aware they believe in a racist ideology. Although discriminatory acts of racism or explicit bias are unlawful and unethical, they still occur and are still the result of racist ideologies, just not conscious ones.
3. Racial steering/settlement patterns
A person’s geographic location can predict the quality of their education. Why? Racial steering.
According to an article from The Washington Post, Minneapolis has participated in racial steering since the early 20th century; “for instance, real estate transactions in many Minneapolis neighborhoods were bound by provisions that limited ownership to white families.” In other words, certain neighborhoods -- ones most likely to have been wealthier, well cared for, upper-class -- were directed to only white families. The patterns of racial steering are still present today.
Don’t take my word for it? Look at these maps of Minneapolis neighborhoods. There are clear clusters of diversity throughout the city.
Back to the point. What does racial steering have to do with the quality of education?
The quality of the neighborhood predicts the quality of the school. So, in the neighborhoods with high-quality resources and wealth will more likely provide a better education for its students. So, racial steering has handed non-Hispanic whites a better education on a silver platter, whereas the poorer neighborhoods of Minneapolis struggle to get a high-quality education, even though they need the most support.
How do we move forward?
Although racial disparities in health and education is a daunting, widespread issue with historical roots, there are some solutions to reducing these disparities.
In terms of health care disparities, one article from KFF presents four areas of action:
For more information on these solutions, click here
In terms of the achievement gap and other racial/ethnic disparities in education, the American University School of Education suggests that we do the following:
For more information on these solutions, click here
The first step in eliminating implicit bias, racial steering, and racial/ethnic inequality in schools and health care systems is to call attention to the issue. The blanket of "Minnesota Nice" makes it almost impossible to talk about sensitive issues, especially ones like racial or gender inequality that reflect badly on our image.
To make change, we need to start the conversation and then continue to have that same conversation even when the issue may not seem relevant. Because race is always relevant. It is not just relevant when an innocent black or brown man is shot and killed. It is relevant in the daily nuances of hidden racial prejudice in Minnesota: in glances, comments, slurs, thoughts, and actions.
Call to Action
So, I challenge you to start the conversation on race in Minnesota and America. I challenge you to educate yourself on this issue and to introduce yourself the truth, even though it is ugly. I challenge you to share this post or your own thoughts on social media. Use your voice and your experiences to call attention to these issues. Even though we have made progress in the realm of racial/ethnic/gender equality, we still have a long way to go.
Leave me a comment!
If you like this post, have any questions, or have ideas on how I can improve my blog, leave me a comment below! Your input is always appreciated. As always, thank you for your support!
Click on the links below to explore the sources mentioned in this post!
"The Worst Cities for Black Americans"
"Educational disparities still plague Minnesota students"
"An Examination of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care"
The Washington Post: "Racial inequality in Minneapolis is among the worst in the nation"
Maps of Minneapolis Segregation
"Eliminating Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Health Care: What are the options?"
"What the U.S. Education System Needs to Reduce Inequality"
A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota book
Take Action. Start the Conversation. Be the Change.
Meghan Hesterman (she/her) is a child advocate and education blogger. While a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), she created Journal of a Future Teacher to share her journey in becoming an early childhood teacher.