Ex-Racial Equity Director Alleges ‘Toxic’ Minneapolis City Hall, Accuses Black Leaders of Racism
Dave Orrick, Star Tribune, March 20, 2023
Minneapolis’ recently departed race and inclusion director isn’t leaving without a fight.
In a memo sent before she departed last week as director of the Department of Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, Tyeastia Green is alleging a “toxic work environment” at City Hall and accusing several senior Black officials of “antiblack racism,” including City Council President Andrea Jenkins and Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw.
City officials responded Monday in a statement that said they are reviewing Green’s memo and that “professional staff” will decide whether to investigate further. “The city disagrees with the characterization of the events outlined in the memo,” according to the statement.
Vetaw defended her actions, and Jenkins fired back.
“I am not anti-Black, but I am anti-incompetent,” Jenkins said.
In her memo dated March 6, Green states that “what I have experienced here is, in fact, antiblack racism and that some of that racism was done at the hands of other Black people in the enterprise.”
She continues that having been “in the belly of the beast for nearly a year … Minneapolis holds, matures, coddles, perpetuates, and massages a racist anti-black work culture.”
The effects of the potentially incendiary 14-page memo are hard to predict in a city that has grappled with racial reckoning since the 2020 murder of George Floyd and seen racial tensions permeate its progressive politics. As of Monday, reactions from inside City Hall ranged from silence to caution and skepticism. At least one voice sounded a note of solidarity with Green.
Hanging over some of the responses is the fact that city attorneys regard much of the matter as confidential under personnel rules. At least one council member on Monday said that they believed they weren’t legally allowed to speak about the memo at all.
Green’s memo, addressed to her superiors, adds to the drama surrounding her departure.
Her last day, on March 13, followed weeks of scrutiny surrounding her planning of the city’s inaugural Black Expo and the allegedly false statements she made about it. The Feb. 24 event fell far short of Green’s hoped-for attendance of 20,000 and left some vendors feeling let down.
A week before the event, the City Council met in emergency session to plug a funding shortfall for the expo. At that meeting and since, Green claimed that the Bush Foundation was prepared to offer $3 million to sponsor the event over three years but had certain conditions — a claim repeatedly denied by the St. Paul-based foundation and city officials, who back the foundation’s assertion that the city never actually applied for funding from Bush.
Nearly a month later, the event’s precise budget — apparently approaching $500,000 — remains unclear. In a statement Monday, the city notes that the City Council allocated $435,000 on Feb. 17, but add that the total amount budgeted “outside the action taken on Feb. 17, is still being assessed by the city.”
The city auditor is planning a three-stage probe into the matter, which would seem to satisfy Green’s demands that the city investigate the expo.
Some sentiments in Green’s memo echo thoughts expressed by some former city workers of color as well as her predecessor, Joy Marsh, who previously held the title of race and equity director. In May, Marsh penned a public letter alleging that during her yearslong tenure, she and other non-white workers were subjected to “gaslighting, marginalization and tokenism” in an “organization that is built upon policy and practice that centers whiteness.”
But Green’s memo also includes claims disputed by the city, as well as some contradictions of previous statements she’s made.
Green’s memo, which she describes as a “report,” contains a range of specific accusations interspersed with generic descriptions of racially charged workplace problems. It quotes from prominent Black writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison.