Department of Civil Rights

Velma J. Korbel, Director

350 S. 5th St., Room 239
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Phone: (612) 673-3012
Fax: (612) 673-2599
TTY: (612) 673-2157

Office Hours:
8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Monday – Friday

Department News

Center Racial Equity in COVID-19 Decision Making

By Jazmine Logan, Civil Rights Equity Division (May 11, 2020)

Amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic, industries and social service systems such as the healthcare system, non-profit organizations, and local government, will be making difficult decisions that will impact medical care, job security, and access to resources. These decisions are not easy, but for many of our communities, the implications of decisions made today will have lasting impacts for months, years, and generations to come. During this time, we must not only think critically about what decisions will be made, but we must be intentional in centering race and equity in informed decision-making processes.

The current global pandemic has already yielded findings of disparity across various communities, notably within the healthcare system. In major cities around the United States, rates for confirmed cases of the virus and deaths related to Covid-19 complications show a disproportionate amount of people of color being impacted by this virus. According to the APM Research Lab, findings show that of the states and local cities reporting Covid-19 cases and deaths by race, Black people make up just 13% of those populations, yet, this population has suffered 32% of the reported Covid-19 deaths in these areas.  There have also been findings of rates of disproportion for Latinx communities in states such as New York, where Latinx people have suffered 23% of the deaths despite making up just 19% of the population, and for Asian communities in places like California, where they account for close to 15% of the population but hold 17% of the states deaths from Covid-19. Racial disparity in health outcomes and health care have long persisted. Even before the outbreak of Covid-19 within the United States, research had shown evidence of what is known as a racial empathy gap for communities of color within the healthcare system, affecting the level of empathy, and thus, level of care, they are shown when dealing with pain, illness, and other chronic and outstanding medical issues.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation,  people of color make up a large sector of essential workers, with higher rates of African American, Latinx, and Indigenous people holding occupations within service industries, including those of hospitality, restaurants, and retail.  They may occupy jobs that put them in closer proximity with other people and increase their risk of contracting the virus. In addition, occupations in these industries can make workers more susceptible to wage cuts, lay offs, and thus, financial insecurity.

While we must account for historic and systemic policies and barriers that have undoubtedly impacted communities of color - positioning them to be increasingly vulnerable and at risk for negative health conditions, with lower access to healthcare, community resources, and higher social, economic, and political power - it is also increasingly necessary to evaluate the processes used in decision-making.

When in spaces where decision-making is happening, we should all work to employ a Racial Equity Impact Analysis to reflect on how the impending decision(s) will impact community, and which communities will be most impacted. The Center for Social Inclusion defines racial equity as both an outcome and a process.  As an outcome, racial equity is achieved when race no longer determines one’s socioeconomic outcome when everyone has what they need to thrive, no matter where they live.  As a process, racial equity occurs when those most impacted by structural racial inequity are meaningfully involved in the creation and implementation of the institutional policies and practices that impact their lives.

The City of Minneapolis’s Office of Race and Equity has developed Covid-19 Rapid Response Racial Equity Impact Analysis to ask these questions:

  1. What are the racial equity impacts of this decision? Who will be most positive impacted? Who will be most negatively impacted? What are the racial implications of this decision?
  2. Who will benefit from and/or be burdened by this decision?
  3. Are there strategies to mitigate any unintended consequences of this decision? What can be done now to limit negative outcomes for communities after a decision has been made?

For our youth, this pandemic will determine the path for their generation, transforming how they experience the world around them, their interactions, and their social existence. For others, their generation will be further defined by this moment, with job security in flux, opportunities for wealth accumulation and socioeconomic movement strained, and impacted ability to work towards social life milestones, such as homeownership, career movement, attainment of higher education, and more. For some, this time may be a stark reminder of the racial and socioeconomic inequalities and inequities that have long remained in their communities. To them, these times will be reminiscent of circumstances that previously defined and influenced their generations, impacting their current social status, economically, politically, and culturally.

For all of us, this is traumatic. This is an experience that is altering our lives, generations, and communities in ways that we can see and in ways that we may not feel for years to come. It is forcing us to envision a new normal, to reflect upon how we lived and how we will live going forward. Furthermore, it is casting light on systemic inequities and barriers that have persisted and are now being exacerbated in the face of this pandemic. In this time, there must be intentionality in centering race and equity in every process of decision-making, at every level, in every sector, so that all of our communities are protected, cared for, and supported during this pandemic and for generations to come.

For more information about the resources mentioned check out our Resources for Continued Learning.

Protecting Front-Line Workers

By Ashley Boone, Labor Standards Enforcement Division (April 29, 2020)

There are countless jobs that cannot be performed in the safety and comfort of one’s home. A substantial number of workers unable able to work from home are in health care, hospitality, grocery, and construction industries. Many of these jobs are disproportionately performed by low-wage workers who are Black, Indigenous and people of color. As we consider where, how, and under what conditions to attempt returning to “normal”, gradually or otherwise, we must also remember that the physical health and well-being of workers and communities of color will be disproportionately affected. The use of a tool to assess the impact on racial equity is extremely critical as we puzzle through these decisions that will affect the hardest-hit communities far into the future. 

There are many essential low wage workers who must work through this pandemic outside of their homes and in direct contact with other people because of the nature of their work. A disproportionate number of these workers are black, brown or Indigenous. In 2017-2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that less than one in five Black workers and about one in six Hispanic workers can work from home.  Questions that must be asked and answered include: What steps are employers taking to protect their employees from being infected? Are there required industry-specific measures that must be taken to ensure workers are safety? What emotional support should be provided to employees who are dealing with the stress of working during a public health emergency?

Governor Walz’s April 23rd Emergency Executive Order 20-40 relies on OSHA, MN Dept of Health, and CDC guidelines and requires employers to create and implement a plan to keep workers, businesses and the public safe. Provisions in the Order require that equipment should be sanitized, and employees should receive necessary protective equipment based on the workplace and type of business operation. Workers also must be screened for symptoms of COVID-19. Sick or symptomatic workers should be sent home immediately. Workers who are sick or symptomatic before reporting to work should stay home. Fortunately, the City of Minneapolis already has an ordinance in place in which the purpose is to protect workers and the public. The City’s sick and safe time ordinance plays an important role in keeping us safe, now more than ever.

The Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights is hearing from many low wage workers voicing concerns about workplace safety. While we recognize there are some workplaces that took early steps to protect their employee’s health and safety, many will grapple with what it means to keep workers safe. For example, the Seward Community Co-op is one of the businesses that out of necessity acted early train their staff to provide customer service while implementing social distancing, wearing masks, and limiting the number of shoppers in the store at one time.  Additionally, Seward Co-op began the practice of having their employees check their temperatures before coming to work so that employees who are sick or symptomatic do not come to work.  The Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights has also noticed there are many stores placing markings on the ground to help shoppers practice social distancing. Some businesses have installed sneeze guards to create a physical protective barrier between the customer and employee.

Working at home is a privilege that many of people in our city do not have. Many low-wage workers and BIPOC workers often do not feel heard or valued by the rest of our community. While there are a lot of general expressions of gratitude for those on the front lines of this public health crisis, it will take overt action to make sure gratitude translates into protection and safety for the most vulnerable among us.

For more information about the resources mentioned check out our Resources for Continued Learning.      

Racism Towards Asian-Americans Requires Strong Response

By Maria Lee, Civil Rights Equity Division (April 25, 2020)

Anti-Asian racism was present in our communities far before the president used the term “Chinese Virus”. In the months leading up to Governor Tim Walz’s Stay at Home Order, newspapers circulated articles linking the coronavirus to foreignness. Stories about non-Asian coronavirus patients ran with pictures of unidentified Asian people in masks or shots of storefronts in major Chinatowns. By early February, Chinatown restaurant owners in California and New York said they’d seen a dramatic drop in foot traffic and patronage.  The current rise in anti-Asian racism and xenophobia is a new permutation of an old American habit: scapegoating an “unamerican other” for a perceived threat to American prosperity.

With heightened anxieties about threatened economic security, many fear a spike in violence after Stay at Home orders are lifted. Author Helen Zia points to the 1982 killing of Vincent Chin in Detroit as one such watershed moment when economic decline lead to violence against Asian Americans. The initial case ruling charged Chin’s killers with a $3,000 fine, three years’ probation, and no jail time. The leniency of this verdict exposed the conditional acceptance into American life Asian Americans have always faced and sparked action in many to take a stand against racism. In the aftermath, Asian American activists found allies in the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League to strengthen hate crime legislation. A key lesson from the Vincent Chin case for the Asian American movement was what Asian Americans are experiencing is part of a larger pattern of race-based violence in the United States. Therefore, strategies to combat anti-Asian racism cannot be developed in isolation but needs to chip away at the larger pattern of race-based violence in coordination with other marginalized groups.

While we don’t have control over the national political discourse, we do have both the power and responsibility to be actively engaged in the response to anti-Asian racism in our own communities here in Minneapolis. The response to increased anti-Asian racism must align with broader racial equity efforts that builds solidarity among marginalized groups. We must have strategies beyond increasing policing to keep communities safe. We’ve seen the disastrous outcomes when police presence unnecessarily escalates incidents; violence in these cases statistically impacts the African American community disproportionately. Beyond harming other communities of color, unwarranted increased policing harms the most vulnerable within the Asian American community, such as document insecure and trans/gender non-conforming Asian Americans. Our response to increased anti-Asian racism must include strong institutions to investigate discrimination and track hate crime incidents, intervention and de-escalation skills in community, and media coverage that avoids stereotypes.

Several groups are tracking incidents targeting Asian Americans around the nation, including the State of Minnesota’s Human Rights Department through their recently launched Discrimination Helpline. The helpline is collecting incidents both observed and experienced directly. The Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights is taking discrimination complaints online and over the phone. We encourage you to reach out to the Complaints Investigation Division of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department if you have experienced any of the following and have reason to believe the action is motivated by your race or ethnicity: denial of service at a store, restaurant, clinic, or social service agency; denial of transportation services via public transportation, taxi, Lyft, or Uber; loss of housing; loss of work or reduction of work hours. The Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights rejects racism and discrimination in all forms and is committed to protecting Asian Americans and all people during this time.

Beyond our institutions, we need communities who have the skills to step up and intervene on behalf of their neighbors. We need community members who are informed and proactively inclusive to participate. This doesn’t mean to jump in and break up a fist fight. This does mean to help broaden the narrowly defined notion of a “proper American” and ensure that we are all getting the same access to goods and services now, and as we slowly return to public life. If you work at a grocery store and observe harassment, ask the harasser to leave. If you are getting takeout meals, support Asian owned restaurants. If you supervise employees, let them know anti-Asian racism is never allowed, especially now. Hate geared towards any one group hurts our broader goal of an equitable and just society. It is up to us to challenge xenophobic speech among our friends, family, and immediate community members.

With uncertain times ahead, the need to develop systems of care across difference is more important than ever. We can look to the past for behavioral patterns we should aspire not to repeat, and for examples of courageous community members who dared to challenge fear.

For more information about historical events and resources mentioned check out our Resources for Continued Learning.

Minneapolis Proposed Ban on "Conversion Therapy"

The City of Minneapolis has proposed a new ordinance that would ban the dangerous and disproven practice of "conversion therapy."

What is "conversion therapy?"

Often referred to as “reparative therapy,” “ex-gay therapy,” or “sexual orientation change efforts,” conversion therapy includes a range of dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or efforts to change a person’s gender identity or expression. 

What would this ordinance do? 

This ordinance would make it unlawful for any provider to provide conversion therapy or reparative therapy to a minor.

We invite you to review the full text of the ordinance and related ordinance amendments on the city's website. You will find a complete list of definitions, as well as details about the enforcement and purpose of the ordinance. 

How do we define "provider?"

A provider is any individual who is licensed, certified, or registered under the laws of the State of Minnesota, including mental health practitioners and mental health professionals as defined in Minnesota Statutes, Section 245.462, to provide mental health services. Providers include, but are not limited to, physicians specializing in the practice of psychiatry, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, social workers, clinical counselors, behavioral clinicians or therapists, nurses, or any other persons offering such mental health services. A provider does not include members of the clergy who are acting in their roles as clergy or pastoral counselors and providing religious counseling to congregants.

How could someone report a violation of this ordinance? 

The Complaint Investigations Division (CID) housed in the Civil Rights Department would be responsible for enforcing the ordinance. An alleged violation could be submitted to CID either online, in-person, or by phone. 

Where can I get more information about the proposed ban on "conversion therapy?" 

To learn more about "conversion therapy" and the proposed ordinance, please review the following online resources:

Additional questions? Please contact [email protected]



Last updated May 11, 2020



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