Thank you for your 2017 in-depth topic on the changing color of Minnesota. As a lifelong resident who identifies as both white and Asian-American, I connect with the traditions and jokes mentioned at the beginning of the piece but often find myself as the person who brings racial diversity to a group. The statement of “there is no going back” is important, but not in a bleak way.
For those readers who do find the changing color a frightening situation, I encourage neighbors to overcome their fears by simply saying “hi” to someone who looks different than themselves. Going to spaces outside your comfort zone, such as a predominately black church or an East African restaurant, shows you that everyone is the same. Everyone cares about their families and children’s education. Everyone wants to earn a living wage to buy groceries and pay the bills. Having a conversation with someone who looks different exposes the similarities we all have as humans.
Residents may wonder why so many refugees resettle in Minnesota. Looking to what already makes Minnesota great, the welcoming church communities and abundance of nonprofit organizations that want to serve those in need ease newcomers’ anxiety of arriving to a new country and climate. The high employment rate, economic diversity and standard of living are also appealing factors to those who are reuniting with families after extremely difficult experiences in war-torn countries and refugee camps. “Minnesota Nice” is what the rest of the country and world know us to be.
Resisting the demographic shift is not productive for our community. The employment and education disparities in our communities of color are some of the worst in the nation even though we see Minnesota on top 10 lists of “Most Livable” or “Most Educated.” If we resist the changing color of Minnesota by denying equitable education and economic opportunities, the state will only suffer. Planning and preparing for the future alongside communities of color is essential to maintaining and strengthening Minnesota. I look forward to the rest of the series. — Aara A. Johnson, Blaine