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Shining the Light: Revealing our Choice

Shining the Light: Revealing our Choice
2010HealthOpportunity Communities

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For many, Minnesota is a state where the American ―good life‖ has survived; some might even say that it has even thrived. Minnesota has long been touted as one of the healthiest places in the country to live. A seminal 1973 Time magazine article painted a picture of a Minnesota that was largely white, solidly middle class, had a highly-educated population, and was one of the nation’s ―brain centers. A commitment to education, environmental quality, living conditions and economic opportunity played a key role in the state’s high health rankings. Unfortunately, the ―good life‖ in Minnesota, while an alluring narrative, was and is reality only for some Minnesotans. Many residents were excluded – and for them the opportunity to share in the good life remains elusive. For the rest of Minnesotans, the good life is fading. When we allow inequities to exist and grow, the entire population and State pays the price with worse health and decreased opportunity. There is a fault line in our State’s foundation. If we sit by, this fault will continue to grow, and in the process all Minnesotans will be at risk, now and in the future.

As Minnesotans we need to fundamentally realign our public policies if we wish to create a sustainable and prosperous future that provides opportunity for all. Minnesota’s current public policies are not working to assure the conditions necessary for a healthy future for our State. We know this because we can measure glaring inequities along every major indicator used to measure the health of a community. It is evident in the Minnesota public schools, where students of color continue to lag white students on proficiency tests by a wide margin, and drop out of high school at rates 2 to 5 times higher than white students.1 It is evident in our housing and finance markets, where predatory lending was targeted to urban, historically disinvested communities of color, and where prime-qualifying borrowers of color were steered into subprime loans. Neighborhood targeting and lack of consumer protections resulted in a foreclosure epidemic – a disastrous loss of home equity and community stability. It is evident in the most critical areas of our collective lives