Examining the experiences of people of color in MSP

In 2016, partners worked through the Make It. MSP. initiative to take a deeper look at how the Minneapolis-Saint Paul (MSP) region was performing at attracting and retaining professionals to the region. That research found that while MSP was doing well at retaining white professionals, we were performing at a significantly lower level at retaining professionals of color.

Nevertheless, while data gives a glimpse into the realities of people of color’s relationship to our region, it doesn’t tell the full story. Together, GREATER MSP and Make It. MSP. partners have enhanced numbers and research with the real, lived experiences of our residents. Results found that economic opportunity is what typically attracts and keeps people here – specifically people of color. However, a regional lack of cultural awareness, trouble breaking in to the “Minnesota” culture, and explicit experiences of bias and discrimination is what will be most likely to drive them out. If that seems tough to hear, good. It should be.

In 2016 the BE MSP team of Make It. MSP. administered a survey across the region, successfully gathering responses from more than 1,200 people of color in MSP. The collaborative insight gathering effort helped Make It. MSP. develop a more concrete understanding of how survey themes were taking shape in the everyday lives of members of our communities of color. It also led to the formal creation of the BE MSP team.

This year, Make It. MSP.’s BE MSP team launched a new, similar survey. The 2019 survey asked people of color to provide additional ideas and solutions to the issues raised during 2016, as well as point to specific examples of things that are working or did not work in order to inspire action. The results were analyzed and consolidated into the newest Make It. MSP. Insights Report: BE MSP Issue. Here are a few of the findings.

Retention must improve as the region grows more diverse

We acknowledge and celebrate that there are many dimensions to diversity. For the purposes of this report, we specifically examine the population of color in MSP, as defined by those who self-identify through federal data as Black/African American, Asian, Hispanic (non-White), Two or More Races, and American Indian.

When it comes to migration into and out of MSP, the region has improved its performance in recent years among all people, including both white populations and people of color. However, among highly educated people of color, the region was performing worse – even while this subset of the population will continue to grow as the greatest source of labor for our region’s tightening workforce.





Net migration performance is compiled using analysis of American Community Survey data. Data is presented as an annual average over multi-year increments to more accurately communicate trends. Data focuses on U.S. domestic migration among all working-age adults, ages 23+. Analysis performed by Minnesota Compass. 


Nearly one-third of survey respondents said they are likely or extremely likely to leave MSP in the next 3-5 years. However, that number climbs to 49% among black/African American survey respondents. It’s not just about attracting new people of color to the region – it’s about making this region a place where all feel welcome, newcomers and life-long residents of color alike.

Major issues in diversity and inclusion remain prevalent across MSP

QUESTION: My workplace invests in diversity and inclusion support
RESPONSE: 2019: 62%, 2016: 71%

While the majority of BE MSP survey respondents still agree that their workplace invests in DEI support (though fewer in 2019 than 2016), fewer respondents reported that these investments are making significant impact.

I’d like to see commitment to specific goals that can be measured and evaluated. Even if we don’t always achieve them, publically measuring them will change behavior.
2019 BE MSP Survey Respondent

Here are some of the specific examples of suggestions they offered to help improve outcomes:

  • Set measurable goals and enforce for accountability
  • Offer practical tips and tools with expectations that they be used
  • Provide transparency on how goals are developed and supported

Experiences of bias & discrimination

In 2019, the survey aimed to dive deeper into the experiences of discrimination and bias frequently experienced by the majority of people of color in MSP (up 8% from 2016 to 68% in 2019). A strong echo across both spaces were the experiences of persistent, injurious microaggressions that when compounded over time have an exhausting impact on people of color. Examples included people of color feeling as though their cultural differences are viewed as “other” or “exotic”, either implicitly or explicitly being asked to represent one’s culture (“tokenism”), and feeling constant surveillance in public spaces (i.e. shopping), among others. These microaggressions also impacted whether or not survey respondents felt comfortable bringing their whole self to work, as did fear of retribution for speaking up and sharing their experiences as a person of color.

Bringing my whole self means knowing that there’s power in what I uniquely have to offer and I do not have to change my speech, dress, customs, etc. in order to be effective at my job.
2019 BE MSP Survey Respondent

Solutions for a greater push into diversity and inclusion

Still, survey respondents offered a long list of solutions for newcomers and organizational leaders to help connect people of color and make individuals feel welcome in their communities and workplaces.

Ways to encourage people of color to bring their full self to work:

  • Encourage individuals to embrace the clothing and hairstyles they please without having to conform to the white lens of “professionalism”
  • Provide spaces for individuals to talk freely about their experiences as people of color inside and outside of the workplace
  • Empower individuals to speak and present authentically and assure there are not consequences for challenging the status quo

Places where connections are made:

  • Faith-based organizations and networks
  • Fraternity, sorority, and professional organizations by and for people of color
  • Meetups and networking events with a diverse range of attendees
  • Connections to other parents through children
  • Activity-based and culturally-based community groups

Download the full report to learn more

There is no silver bullet DEI strategy, and those searching for solutions know that it is a life-long journey. This latest Insights Report was developed by the BE MSP team to empower our partners across the region as they continue the work in our workplaces and communities. It is meant to spark discussion, raise questions, and motivate us all to pursue more action for our region’s people of color. 

Warning: implode(): Invalid arguments passed in /home/customer/www/makeitmsp.org/public_html/site/wp-content/themes/Divi/footer.php on line 28
Make It. MSP. is a trademark of GREATER MSP.
MSP Hello is a trademark of GREATER MSP.
BE MSP is a trademark of GREATER MSP.