Affirmative action policies and practices are supposed to assist underserved and underrepresented populations in at least the offering of economic, employment, services, and other opportunities that are made available to White people. The City of Minneapolis, which is the largest employer and purchaser of goods and services as well as spending hundreds of millions of dollars on an annual basis for construction, has not had an affirmative action plan in at least 15 years.
The last recorded affirmative action plan that can be found in the City has an effective date of 1989. The Minneapolis Civil Right’s Ordinance section 139.70 clearly states that every department in the City is to submit an affirmative action plan to the city council on a yearly basis.
The city council and the mayor are your elected representatives who were elected to represent your interest. It is clear that these people, in collusion with the legal team of the city attorney’s office, have violated the law in the past and continue to do so today.
The Minneapolis Advisory Committee on Persons with Disabilities, of which I am a member, has requested every year over the past five years a copy of the City’s affirmative action plan. We have never been provided a copy of this document.
As the vice chair of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, I started asking for this document in August of 2007. I was informed that the City was starting to work on this document in February of 2008.
The reason I was given that the City did not have a plan for 2007 was that the City did not have a disparity study in place that would stand up to federal scrutiny, and they were concerned about White contractors suing the city over goals for hiring minorities on construction projects. The City has set money aside for five years to do a disparity study, but no one in management saw fit to initiate the study.
My response as a commissioner was, “You are concerned now that a White contractor will sue you, but you were not concerned over the past 15 years that minority individuals would sue you for the lack of a plan.” The City seems to believe that an affirmative action plan is a waste of time, a document placed on a shelf and reviewed in a year or two.
A proper affirmative action plan is a living, working document that, when used and applied properly, rewards us all.
What do you think it says about a City that has a mantra of “One Minneapolis” but does not have the policies or practices in place at a basic level to start to accomplish this task for all of its citizens, especially those who are disadvantaged? If we are going to be a part of this city, we must become involved and aware of the issues that affect us.
Affirmative action and civil rights are areas of the law that are in place to protect us. We are the ones that these laws are accountable to. We elect a mayor and city council, people we believe will serve our interest in some way. To leave out one of the most basic ways to increase our participation through better education, economic opportunity, fairness and equity is a total disregard for us as a people.
As my mother says, “We put them there. We can get rid of them.”
Kenneth E. Brown is vice chair of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and chair of the commission’s Public Relations and Education Committee. He welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call him at 612-729-8463.