When ‘Minnesota Nice’ … isn’t

BNSF bridge over US 10 in Moorhead, Minn.
Minnesota was held up to the national mirror this month. What did we see? Are we really who we think we are? Or has the national spotlight revealed long-ignored flaws? 
Ann Arbor Miller | MPR News

Editor’s note: This program was cut short due to breaking news. A follow-up conversation is scheduled for Tuesday, June 16.

Minnesotans pride themselves on being Minnesota Nice — a unique blend of politeness, kindness and willingness to help out. But with the national and even international spotlight on the Twin Cities in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, Minnesota Nice looks more like a veneer. It’s shiny — but it could be hiding a crumbling core.

In a raw op-ed, journalist Michele Norris, who grew up in Minnesota, wrote: 

With superior schools, a solid standard of living, a thriving arts culture, a gaggle of Fortune 500 companies, and some of the best hospitals in the world, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have consistently been named among the best places to live in America.

That is ... unless you’re black. African Americans are worse off in Minnesota than in almost every other state in the nation. A report released by the NAACP in December found that “racial disparities are among the worst in the nation in every key indicator of quality of life: Employment, Education, Criminal Justice, Juvenile Justice, Income, Poverty, home ownership and Health.”

On Wednesday, MPR News host Kerri Miller asked: Has Minnesota been coasting on its good reputation and refusing to take a hard look at its flaws? And if so, what now? 


  • Michele Norris is a contributing columnist for the Washington Post and the founding director of The Race Card Project.

  • Seena Hodges is founder and CEO of the Woke Coach.

  • R.T. Rybak is a former mayor of Minneapolis and current CEO and president of The Minneapolis Foundation.

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