A protester marches on Lake Street in south Minneapolis on October 27, 2020. Credit: Ben Hovland | (c) 2020

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People of color are more likely to say they experience discrimination in Minnesota than they do nationwide, according to a new survey released Thursday.

Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities across the state all reported higher rates of personal experiences of discrimination in employment, housing, and police relations than their counterparts did in similar nationwide surveys. Asian Minnesotans also reported higher rates of experiencing discrimination in all of those areas except housing. 

Minnesotans of color are also more likely to believe that discrimination exists. White Minnesotans, by contrast, were the only racial group to report lower rates of discrimination in these areas than white people reported nationally. And just 38 percent of white Minnesotans responding to the survey said discrimination exists, compared with 55 percent of whites across the country. 

APM Research Lab, a division of American Public Media which does research on public policies, conducted the survey earlier this year by contacting more than 1,500 people across the state. It then compared the survey results with a similar nationwide survey from 2017 conducted by NPR and Harvard University. 

Craig Helmstetter, a managing partner at APM Research Lab, said one of the survey’s major findings is that in no case is Minnesota clearly doing better than the national average when it comes to people of color reporting discrimination experiences. 

Helmstetter acknowledged that comparing 2021 local data with 2017 national data may not be perfect. He pointed to a Gallup survey that found an increase of Black populations reporting higher rates of discrimintation in the last few years. But that national growth of discriminatory experiences is still smaller than the gaps found in the national and Minnesota surveys, he said.

In a state that became a focal point of race relations after the 2020 Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, the APM Research Lab survey sought to find out whether perceptions and experiences of racism from people of color in Minnesota were better, the same, or worse than the rest of the country. 

“Unfortunately it’s worse,” Helmstetter said. “So, we’re hoping people will stand up and take notice and take some action around it.”

While perceptions of discrimination may not tell the whole picture—”you can perceive things that don’t exist,” Helmstetter said—people’s personal experiences with discrimination are more tangible.

“You can safely say whether you experienced something,” he said.

Some of the highest levels of reported experiences of racism in Minnesota and the U.S. as a whole came from the state’s Black community. Seventy percent of Black Minnesotans responded that they’ve experienced discrimination in applying for jobs, for example, compared with 56 percent nationally. 

But large gaps between national and locally reported experiences of discrimination exist in other communities. Half of all Indigenous Minnesotans reported experiencing discrimination when applying for housing, compared with 17 percent across the nation. 

In other cases, much smaller gaps between the local and national surveys exist. Thirty-four percent of Asian Minnesotans reported experiencing discriminatory hiring practices, while 27 percent of Asians across the nation reported the same. Close to half of Latino Minnesotan respondents say they’ve been called a racist slur by someone, compared with 43 percent of Latinos nationwide. 

Je Moua, one of the survey’s respondents, said he’s been subjected to anti-Asian slurs. Moua, who is Hmong and came to Minnesota at age 9 in 1987, said this happened to him in the early 2000s while he was in the Army Reserve in Buffalo, Minnesota, and as a college student in Mankato. 

He emphasized that the slurs never came from fellow service members in the Army, but rather from people living near the area where he was stationed. He also said he hasn’t experienced slurs as much in the Twin Cities metro, where he currently lives. 

“I think it’s different depending on where you live in Minnesota,” he said. 

Moua also said he’s never experienced discrimination in employment, housing, or from the police, though he added that he understands that’s not the case for many other people of color here.

Joey Peters

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. His work has appeared in Reuters, Public Radio International, Columbia Journalism Review, KFAI Radio, the Pioneer Press, City Pages, MinnPost and more. He previously...