Looking to have what they call an “honest discussion” about racial inequality in Michigan, the Michigan League for Public Policy held its annual forum Monday.
Between the Flint water crisis and Detroit Public Schools – and the national political climate – the League wanted Michiganders to take a hard look at racial equality and earn about ways to make changes in their communities. At the forum, representatives from business, government and advocacy groups met to discuss topics like solutions for cities in crisis and the media’s role in reporting on race.
CEO and President of the League, Gilda Jacobs had high hopes for the community response to the forum.
“We want people to walk away more informed than they were before,” she said. “We want them to get fired up. And we want them to figure out what they can do to make thing different in this state.”
Rinku Sen, a national advocate for racial justice with Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation, was the keynote speaker at the forum. “Racial justice is a concern for every person in the United States, and involves and engages all of our communities,” she said. “And Michigan, of course, as a state has its own history of racial inequity.”
Jacobs says issues like the Flint water crisis and struggles in Detroit Public Schools are symptomatic of a larger racial problem in Michigan.
“Those, we feel, are really canaries in the coal mine,” she said. “They’re examples of the fact that we need to start looking at issues and policies with a race equity lens. And start applying race equity tools for example to decisions that are made in Lansing.”
Sen suggested policies like not using code words like "inner cities" when talking about people of color. Instead, she said people should talk plainly about race.