Reducing the racial divide in Minneapolis

By Sharon Pierce

With the sentencing of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derrick Chauvin now complete, Minnesotans and people all over the world are asking one question: What now?

The death of George Floyd made it painfully clear to us all how some law enforcement officers seem all too eager to use force unnecessarily on our neighbors, friends and family members of color. This tragedy shines a spotlight on a mere sliver of the racial disparities that are experienced across our community. Now under that spotlight, these disparities are no longer invisible, they command action.

This is our moment, as a community, to face the ugliness of such racial inequities and take a thoughtful and intentional approach to supporting change.

Taking action

At Minneapolis College, we believe it is time for targeted solutions to the persisting problems of racism and inequality in our communities. Here are three ways our college community is taking action for change.

First, Minneapolis College has declared its commitment to becoming an Anti-Racist Institution. The declaration was made last summer and includes specific commitments and objectives included in our Equity Statement.

Hundreds of our students, staff and faculty, as well as Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frye joined me last summer in signing an enormous banner proclaiming our commitment to equity. A wall at the college also displays this focus which paves the way for the steps we are taking to address the systemic changes that are needed within our institution.

Secondly, Minneapolis College is investing in efforts to help eliminate educational inequalities and create opportunities for young inner-city, underrepresented men to elevate their socio-economic status. Bridging the Equity Gap, announced this spring, is a $2 million dollar initiative designed to cover expenses and provide innovative and customized support for young male students of color.

This initiative will kick off with the fall 2021 semester and provide a comprehensive program specifically designed for local African American, Black and American Indian male students who are compelled to explore their academic and professional potential. The program was designed to reach, educate and cultivate the community’s future leaders through an affirming, learning-centered cohort experience in which students are equipped with tools that encourage them to see greatness in themselves.

Then, in the fall of 2022, Minneapolis College will launch The Minnesota Breathe Project. This is a course that will be offered on our campus. It will spark classroom dialogue about addressing the social issues highlighted by George Floyd’s death. These conversations about race, oppression, politics and how all of these intertwine will equip students to become catalysts for change in the community.

Shaping the landscape

I believe this is our time, as a community, to boldly and firmly state that violence perpetrated against one is violence perpetrated against us all. That inequities suffered by some are detrimental to all. And, the systems that allow these atrocities to continue must be dismantled.

For colleges, businesses, government, communities of faith and other vital elements of our community to thrive, we must be willing to make difficult decisions for the greater good. Together, we can reflect, heal and work in unison to reduce the racial divide experienced across our city and, in turn, across the state and the nation.

Since 1914, Minneapolis College has endured many challenges to continue providing high-quality, affordable and transformational educational pathways for our community members, our family, friends and neighbors who face significant challenges to elevating their socio-economic status. We remain devoted to our mission and supporting our community.

Through our students, staff and faculty and as an anchor in the broader community, we are fully engaged and committed to eliminating disparities and to shaping the landscape of the region’s future.

Sharon Pierce

is president of Minneapolis College, a member of the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system offering students more than 100 liberal arts, career and technical programs.