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Nicole Griensewic

Nicole Griensewic

The killing of George Floyd and ensuing unrest have ripped open the festering wound of racism that pervades our state and nation. This atrocity reminds us of both the deep inequities in our society and the privileged status many of us hold.

I write today because my heart aches for Mr. Floyd, his family, friends, and colleagues. My heart aches for the soul of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota. My heart aches for the millions of black Minnesotans and Americans who so often live in fear and suspicion of the very institutions that are supposed to serve and protect them.

But this isn’t about me. This is about George Floyd and the millions of people who are denied the same rights and freedoms I enjoy. I write today because what happened to Mr. Floyd was not only horrifying and unjust, it was preventable.

He died because those police officers placed less value on his life as a black man than they would on mine as a white woman. Mr. Floyd’s death was preventable because our communities could have and should have been conducting the work necessary to dismantle institutional racism and challenge our own biases.

While we have a long way to go, Region Nine Development Commission has taken steps to address some of these issues through a program called Welcoming Communities, which aims to both restore economic justice by facilitating minority entrepreneurship and improve quality of life by encouraging communities to engage positively with residents of color.

We started this work several years ago, treating it as an economic development issue, just like the need for roads, bridges, and childcare providers. Over time, Welcoming Communities has evolved into a forum to confront biases and learn to cherish the contributions and humanity of all Minnesotans.

This week, we have yet again been reminded why we and our partners must work harder than ever. We must search ourselves, our families, and our communities with the renewed conviction that oppression is the status quo and we are the agents responsible for change.

Ultimately, the goal of this work is to sew justice, dignity and love. We must support our neighbors now more than ever. The Welcoming Communities’ work is no longer just a regional economic development need. It is, as last week’s events remind us, a moral imperative.

Nicole Griensewic is executive director of the Region Nine Development Commission.

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