Racism Beyond A Clown: Missouri’s Minority Opportunities
By Honorable Jamilah Nasheed
While the disrespectful and demeaning portrayal of the president as a rodeo clown at the Missouri State Fair is yet another reminder – like the Paula Deen exposure and Trayvon Martin verdict – that racism in America in this twenty-first century remains ever alive and well, I would caution us not to be so captivated and consumed by such obvious and transient instances of racism that we fail to deal with the institutional racism that is entrenched and more important.
While my political colleagues and others were rightfully flooding the media to lambast the rodeo incident last week, no mention was made of an announcement that has far greater significance to blacks than a two bit racist clown act. This past week it was announced that the state has decided on the awardee for the contract to perform what is known as a “disparity study.”
The essential purpose of the disparity study is to establish for blacks and minorities their percentage share of the billions in contracts awarded annually by the State of Missouri based upon evidence that the state has historically excluded them from this huge economic pie because of their race. The disparity study will enable the state to enact, for example, a law requiring that at least ten percent (10%) of all the contracts awarded by the state be awarded to blacks.
Currently, there is no requirement by the State of Missouri that a percentage of its contracts be awarded to blacks or minorities or women. Thus, the Missouri State Fair, which is taxpayer funded, has no legal mandate requiring that a portion of the state dollars it spends annually be awarded to black or minority vendors. Because the disparity study will result in Missouri having to set aside contracts for black businesses, next year’s State Fair might very well feature black clowns and cowboys paid for with state funds.
More significantly, the disparity study will open up for blacks and minorities the opportunity to participate in the huge economy created by state contracts. The employment this will create for the black community is major, and of far greater significance and lasting impact than a weekend disgusting rodeo debacle. This is why it is imperative that we not be so distracted by the racism in plain view that we lose sight of the stealth discrimination that lies within our economic structure, which is so much more destructive to our community.
With swiftness, the clown was banned for life from ever performing again at a Missouri sponsored function. I can assure you that banning the state from forever excluding blacks and minorities from contracts will not come so swiftly.
The rodeo incident was last week’s news story. We must make attention to our having a share of the economic pie an everyday media event.
(Editor’s Note: The honorable Jamilah Nasheed is Missouri’s 5th District State Senator. This editorial also appears in the St. Louis Evening Whirl, and opinions expressed by Senator Nasheed are not necessarily those of this website).