The State Advisory Committees to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

By law, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has established an advisory committee in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The committees are composed of state citizens who serve without compensation. The committees advise the Commission of civil rights issues in their states that are within the Commission’s jurisdiction. More specifically, they are authorized to advise the Commission on matters of their state’s concern in the preparation of Commission reports to the President and the Congress; receive reports, suggestions, and recommendations from individuals, public officials, and representatives of public and private organizations to committee inquiries; forward advice and recommendations to the Commission, as requested; and observe any open hearing or conference conducted by the Commission in their states.

State Advisory Committee Reports

This report is the work of the Minnesota Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The report, which may rely on studies and data generated by third parties, is not subject to an independent review by the Commission staff. The views expressed in this report and the findings and recommendations contained herein are those of a majority of the Minnesota Advisory Committee members and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commission or its individual members, nor do they represent the policies of the U.S. government.

Executive Summary

On September 15, 2011, the Minnesota Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held a daylong community forum which focused on the unemployment disparities in Minnesota, the underlying causes of the racial disparities, and recommendations for change. The presenters represented a range of perspectives and diverse backgrounds including business, government, community-based organizations, the faith community, and nonprofits.
The common thread that flowed through each of the presentations is the belief that Minnesota’s unemployment disparity, in which Blacks are more than three times as likely to be unemployed than their White counterparts, is detrimental to the African American community in particular, and to the current and future regional competitiveness of the State of Minnesota as a whole. This report includes various aspects of the testimony that was presented during the community forum, current trends that may be contributing to the racial disparities, and areas of opportunity to make a positive impact in closing the disparities in unemployment between Blacks and Whites in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

This report follows two major reports that have been released in Minnesota in recent years to explore growing disparities between Whites and People of Color in Minnesota in income and employment. The first is a 2005 report by the Itasca Project and the Brookings Institute called “Mind the Gap” and the second is a report that was released in 2011 by the Ramsey County Blue Ribbon Commission entitled, “Everybody In.” Like previous reports, this report examines the demographic shifts occurring in the State of Minnesota and their impacts on current employment opportunities and future workforce preparedness; and the challenges that exist regarding educational attainment for African Americans in Minnesota. Further, this report provides an in depth analysis on topics that have not yet been fully explored in other reports examining unemployment disparities in Minnesota, such as the benefits of increasing access to government contracting opportunities; increasing access to capital for small and minority-owned businesses; and the impacts of arrest records and criminal justice contacts on African American employment prospects. While metropolitan areas across the nation are grappling with similar challenges, our research indicates that some of the issues that have resulted in intolerably high unemployment rates for African Americans are unique to Minnesota and the Twin Cities Metro area. It is our hope that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will assist the Minnesota Advisory Committee in formulating and implementing concrete recommendations that will address what some are calling a crisis in Minnesota.

Some of the potential causes for the disparity outlined in the report include the use of screening tools such as criminal background checks in the hiring process, and barriers to awarding contracts to small, minority-owned businesses. Although this report addresses challenges in Minnesota, it contains instructive information for all jurisdictions. For the full report, go to www.usccr.gov/pubs/MN.