Mee Moua and the Minnesota Legislators of Color – INNOVATORS

Working at the Statehouse to bridge the racial divide.

By Andre Banks Jan 15, 2007

Bridging the racial divide

You might not think of Minnesota as the frontline in the fight for racial justice. In fact, by 2030, the percentage of people of color in Minnesota will surpass the percentage of registered voters who voted in their last primary election. Yet, as the state grows more diverse, it remains plagued by disparities. White students are graduating at a rate 40 percent higher than Black students, and the unemployment rate for Black Minnesotans is three times that of their white neighbors.

But thanks to the leadership of the four (and only four) members of color in the Minnesota State Legislature, the state is taking serious steps to bridge its deepening racial divide. With people of color pouring in and inequities deepening, elected officials like State Senator Mee Moua are using their positions to move progressive bills on immigration, public health and criminal justice. The first Hmong official in the nation, Moua’s election was a symbolic victory for her community and a marker in the state. As the face of Minnesota changes, it seems its leaders will as well.

Moua’s commitment, echoed by her colleagues, might set a precedent in a state (and a nation) desperate for a framework to address the historical legacy of racism while battling contemporary inequality. In her words, "When it comes to issues of racial justice and racial disparity, public policy ought to be the place where we start to find solutions."

What do you think of the INNOVATORS list?  Who would you include?  Click here to join the conversation at RACEWIRE, the COLORLINES blog.