The trouble started last spring, when Minnesota was gifted with a flattering feature in the Atlantic about how the American Dream is alive and well right here in the progressive North.
It was titled “The Miracle of Minneapolis,” and coyly premised on the question: “No other place mixes affordability, opportunity, and wealth so well. What’s its secret?”
For a half-week or so as this article ricocheted across Facebook the state over, humble Minnesotans let their hair down and rejoiced for having proved, yet again, our native superiority.
Then the caustic rejoinders started pouring in from minority leaders and civil rights activists, who echoed an uncomfortable wake-up call: Minnesota’s rising star belied embarrassing disparities in employment, home ownership, school suspensions, and arrests between its white and black residents.
And so a new saying was stylized on cardboard protest signs and shouted over megaphones throughout the serial protests of the past year: Minnesota may be the best state to live in for white people, but it’s the absolute worst place for black people.
As it turns out, the 2016 Minnesota is no longer quite that bad – not for having fixed all its internal inequalities per se, but because Wisconsin’s slipped into that preeminently disgraceful position of being the “absolute worst” state for black Americans.
According to an end-of-year report by financial news site 24/7 Wall Street, Wisconsin’s black unemployment rate is a staggering 20.8 percent (highest in the nation), and its incarceration rate is third highest, mostly thanks to Milwaukee.
The median annual income for black households is $26,053. That’s less than half of white Sconnies’ median income of $56,083.
Minnesota, though comparably less bleak, ranks an unfortunate No. 2 on 24/7 Wall Street’s list. Here, 216 per 100,000 white people are imprisoned, while black Minnesotans are incarcerated at 2,321 out of 100,000.
As for median income, black households in Minnesota don’t earn much more than they do in Wisconsin at just $27,026 a year. That's also less than half of what white Minnesotans make.
No wonder then, that black homeownership rate here is the eighth lowest in the nation: 24 percent.