An Opportunity to Lead
First let’s look at the numbers. A Google search counts more than 256 million results from the name George Floyd, approximately 10 times the results of searching for “Oprah Winfrey.” This compares to Donald Trump’s 886 million results and Joe Biden’s 556 million results. Anecdotally, we know that George Floyd’s name has become so much a part of our lexicon that news stories relating to unrest, injustice or police brutality reference his name more times than not. More people know who George Floyd is and that Minneapolis is where he died than know the name of our country’s vice president.
Now that we understand how the events of May 25 have permanently impacted our community’s perception in the public eye, we have a choice. We can look backwards and simply try to prevent such events in the future. Or we can own our destiny by intentionally leading efforts to seek justice for all people and eradicating police abuse in all its forms.
Leading the charge to reject injustice requires both individual and collective commitments. Our Meet Minneapolis team has embraced this challenge by providing staff and board education that enlightens on the ills associated with racism. We have also enhanced our internal infrastructure dedicated to seeking justice and equality within our sphere of influence.
Our opportunity to lead comes in the form of taking full ownership of our position as the epicenter of a movement. We can be the community that fully embraces the challenge to address racism and other biases in a substantive way. We must look to the future, not the past.
Socially unacceptable behavior, particularly when it comes in the form of a tragedy, often evokes public responses from entities simply wanting to be on the right side of history. Those with self-serving motivations are quickly revealed as the fraudulent actions they are. In our community, however, there are many examples of how public and private entities have stepped up to assertively and genuinely respond to the injustice suffered by George Floyd and so many others.
One such example, the Pohlad family – owners of the Minnesota Twins – donated a multi-million-dollar gift to organizations working on racial justice issues. In another, the Minnesota Vikings and their owners also will make a significant donation to social justice causes across the United States.
Nationally, many corporations have committed dollars to social justice initiatives. Our own region’s major companies, such as Target and UnitedHealth Group, made significant community investments related to equity and justice. And, another of our region’s corporations has taken a leadership role in the struggle for equality. U.S. Bank Chief Diversity Officer Greg Cunningham helps to spearhead his company’s social justice efforts, and in a communique to his 70,000 fellow team members, asked, “What can our company do?” Greg demonstrated that any external efforts to address racism and inequality must start internally.
Government has also stepped up in our region as Hennepin County declared racism a public health crisis. Hennepin County Commissioners Irene Fernando and Angela Conley (who is also a Meet Minneapolis board member) championed the resolution, which reads in part: “When we don’t call out and correct systemic biases, we perpetuate oppression. We must stop treating the symptoms of disparities and step back to see all the systems that got us here.”
Similarly, the Minneapolis City Council declared racism a public health emergency by approving a resolution containing a series of action steps to dedicate more resources to racial equity work. In supporting the resolution, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Meet Minneapolis board member, noted, “Systemic racism is among the greatest long-term threats our city and nation are facing.”
So, as we pause this week to consider what we are thankful for, also look at all that has happened in the half year. Be encouraged that we are on the right track as a community. We have the opportunity to own our destiny as the birthplace of a social reawakening as well as to join with the public and private organizations that have committed to fighting injustice and inequality.
We hope that you are able enjoy this season in a safe and healthy way, and that you will join us on this journey.