Mapping Systemic Racism in Rural America (Bagley, MN)

by the Rev. Ken Howard

“FaithX delivered a powerful, revealing presentation on “Mapping Systemic Racism in Rural America.” FaithX’s maps revealed gaps in opportunity in our region among Native and Nonnative people: economic, educational, access to health care, and more. We attended the webinar with a member of the tribal council of a nearby reservation. We are sharing FaithX’s work with the tribal council, and in our local community. Systemic change begins by raising consciousness. FaithX does a powerful job of accomplishing that goal. Lives can be changed if we tell the truth. Thanks, FaithX for helping us tell the truth.” 

The Rev. Dr. Mark R. Olson, Faith Lutheran Church, Bagley MN

Early this year, the FaithX Project delivered the third in a series of webinars on Mapping Systemic Racism. The first focused on urban Southside Chicago and the second on semi-suburban Queen’s County on Long Island. In our third webinar, Mapping Systemic Racism in Rural America, we turned to the rural area surrounding Bagley, MN, including the Native American reservations of White Earth, Red Lake, and Leech Lake.

Attending the webinar as our special guests were the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Bagley and several lay leaders and members from his congregation, both Native and Nonnative. Prior to the webinar, we worked with this group to explore both the presence and the impact of Systemic Racism in their setting. Even though the local participants from their lived experience and the FaithX staff from our ongoing work on the issue thought we knew a bit about Systemic Racism, all of us were stunned by visual clarity of both its obvious pervasive presence and its deep and extensive impact.

There was, of course, the clear, continuing, and pernicious segregation of race and ethnicity. We usually think of “redlining” as an urban and suburban phenomenon. But as one of the Native participants put it, the reservation was both literally and figuratively “the most brutal form of redlining that any racial or ethnic group in our country has experienced, and that our government and our culture has perpetrated.”

As we dug into the underlying demographic data, the difference between Native and Nonnative areas on a vast variety of issues was stark, including:  Arrest Rate (especially Personal Crime and Juvenile Crime), Covid Vulnerability, Drug Overdose Mortality, Emergency Services Access, Health Insurance Access, Educational Spending and Educational Attainment, Pre-School Enrollment, Disconnected Youth (not in school or in workforce), Net Worth (and Generational Wealth), Poverty (especially Child Poverty), Rent Burden, Unemployment, and more. The odds of all of these issues lining up so closely with race and ethnicity by chance are over 8 billion to one.

And as you can see from Fr. Mark’s comments above, the work we did together is already having an impact on the peoples of the region. Click here to view a portion of the webinar.

If you would like to engage with us to map systemic racism in your community, please contact us.

This FaithX webinar was cosponsored by the Gathering of Leaders and the Episcopal Church Foundation

Upcoming Data-Grounded Discernment webinars include such topics as Congregational Vitality Assessment and Leadership Transition Planning (click on links for more info or to register).