In his annual State of the State address, Gov. Tim Walz urged the importance of getting vaccinated in a race against COVID-19, but just as urgently expressed Minnesota's need to come together to become a more equitable place to live.
Walz, speaking from his former classroom at Mankato West High School, echoed the words of Dr. Martin Luther King who delivered a 48-minute speech at the south-central Minnesota school in 1961 (audio of MLK's speech) where he said "no section of our country can boast of clean hands."
Walz cited the global spotlight that has hovered over Minnesota ever since George Floyd died as four now-former Minneapolis cops held him on the ground outside a small business in south Minneapolis.
"Our deep, racial inequities were exposed for the world to see. For many white Minnesotans, it was an awakening to a truth that Minnesotans of color have known their entire lives," said Walz. "While our state ranks as one of the best places in the country for a white child to grow up, it often ranks as one of the worst for a child of color."
In June 2020, WCCO's Pat Kessler reported that only 25.6% of Black families owned a home in the Twin Cities, while more than 75% of white families owned their home, leading to a massive gap in which Black families' net worth is only approximately one-tenth that of white families.
"As many Minnesotans welcome getting back to normal, we must acknowledge this and recognize that for too many, getting back to normal isn't good enough," said Walz.
"It's not good enough for a single mother working two jobs just to feed her family. It's not good enough for a student in a small town who has to do her homework at a local restaurant because she doesn't have a good internet connection. And it's not good enough for young Black men, who live in fear of being stopped by police officers who have sworn an oath to protect them."
Walz's words come on the eve of opening statements for the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with the murder of Floyd.
Multiple protests are scheduled Monday in Minneapolis, including outside the Hennepin County Government Center, which houses the courtroom where Chauvin is being tried. The City of Minneapolis will have an increased law enforcement presence, including assistance from numerous state agencies, including the National Guard.
"As the trial of Derek Chauvin gets underway, tensions and emotions will understandably run high," said Walz. "Please, Minnesotans, make your voices heard. Practice your First Amendment right. But please heed Dr. King's advice that non-violence is the only way to truly move hearts and create lasting change."
Walz also likened Minnesota to the late-'90s high school football team he coached at Mankato West High School, saying that team rallied from an 0-and-4 start to the season to advance to the state playoffs and win the championship.
He told Minnesotans what he told his team more than 20 years ago: "This is your moment. This is our moment."
That moment during a timeout on the field in 1997 led to a defensive stop that ultimately served as the football team's launch pad for success the rest of the season.
"It taught us all grit, resilience and the true meaning of teamwork. Each player stayed in his lane, did his part, to help bring home the state title. That's what Minnesotans did this past year," he said.
Walz concluded: "This is our goal line stand. Get vaccinated. We're coming back."