It’s Time to Join the Hard Work of Fighting Racism

The news out of Charlottesville and around the country in the past week has been bewildering. It’s bizarre to watch a president struggle to condemn racist hate. It’s encouraging to see people come together and condemn this hate, but at the same time I can’t help wondering how we got here in the first place.

We’ve overlooked too much, sat by in uncomfortable silence, allowed injustice to go unchecked for too long.

All this talk of taking down statues is helpful, but we need to be careful that we don’t see taking down statues and condemning groups that should obviously be condemned as enough.

Ta-Nehisi Coates said it this way:

“I will say that there is some danger if it simply stops at taking down statues. … I support the removal of the statues, but I just want to make sure that we’re not skipping over a conversation, you know, by taking down symbols and saying, ‘OK, that’s nice. That’s over.'”

We face a real danger if we whitewash our public spaces of any potential signs of racism, but refuse to do the deeper work of ridding our hearts of racism.

It’s easy to condemn slavery and Jim Crow, to look down on the South and the Confederate flag. But racism thrived (and still thrives) outside of the South. When it was founded, Oregon banned black people from the entire state. The 1951 riot in Cicero, Ill., showed that Jim Crow existed outside the South. Even today, Minnesota has the worst racial disparities in the nation.

We have work to do.

We can’t breathe easy just because we stopped some Nazis.

I think Austin Channing Brown said it powerfully:

Its time, Beloved. Its time to commit yourselves to learning. Its time to commit yourselves to speaking. Its time to commit yourselves to writing. Its time to commit yourselves to organizing. Its time to commit yourselves to preaching. Its time to commit yourselves to teaching. Its time to commit to understanding American history. Its time to commit yourselves to the work of racial justice. Its time to commit yourselves to love- whatever that looks like at the intersection of your giftedness and influence.

But when I say love, Im not talking meaningless, polite niceties. You can keep that. Im talking about a love that takes risks. A love that requires sacrifice. A love that protests hate.

Its time to unequivocally protest the hate embedded in white supremacy- not just in the events of Charlottesville but around the dinner table, in the pews, in the classroom, in the neighborhood, in the board meetings, in the curriculum, in the books, movies, and media in your house, and most of all from within your own heart, mind and spirit.

Go read her entire post. It’s good stuff. Continue reading It’s Time to Join the Hard Work of Fighting Racism

How a Book Lover Deals With a Reading Slump

People who know me know that I like to read. A lot. I read 158 books last year, and that was pretty average for me. This year? Not so much.

We’re exactly halfway through 2017, and so far I’ve read 40 books. Last year at this time? 104.

40 books is still a lot of books to read in a single year, let alone six months. But it’s still way below par for me. For the last five years I’ve read well over 100 books a year, once over 200.

So what happened?

I’ve been in an extended reading slump.

Continue reading How a Book Lover Deals With a Reading Slump

Minimizing Terrorism by Integrating Muslims

Recently on The Daily Show, journalist Sebastian Junger and producer Nick Quested discussed their documentary Hell on Earth about the ongoing civil war in Syria. They made an intriguing comment about why ISIS terror attacks haven’t happened in the U.S. as much as they have in Europe:

“Thank God this country has been spared most of the kinds of attacks Europe has been suffering the last few years. The theory for why that is, is that the Muslim population in America has been really successfully integrated into our economy, our culture, our society. In Europe it has not. And I think the lesson for America is let’s make sure that we are as inclusive a society as possible, because that is actually what protects us from the kinds of violence, the tragedies we’ve been seeing almost every week in Europe on the news.” -Sebastian Junger, The Daily Show, June 7, 2017

Continue reading Minimizing Terrorism by Integrating Muslims

Muslims & Christians Coming Together for #LoveSomalia

The first weekend in June, more than 15,000 people came together in downtown St. Paul to pack meals for the famine in Somalia. The nonprofit Feed My Starving Children organized the mobile packing event, setting up their warehouse in the RiverCentre.

At the end of the #LoveSomalia event, nearly 5 million meals had been packed. My family attended for a shift on Sunday, doing our small part to pack a few boxes.

What’s amazing about this story is that Somali Muslims approached an unapologetically Christian organization to ask what they could do. Feed My Starving Children responded by setting up this emergency event in eight weeks.  Continue reading Muslims & Christians Coming Together for #LoveSomalia

Robert Street Tunnel on Hold for No Good Reason

Just when I was starting to blog about other things (two posts in a row!), the tunnel comes up again. This time the proposed River-to-River Greenway and Robert Street tunnel in West St. Paul received high-profile coverage in the Pioneer Press.

Unfortunately, it’s not good news:

Plans for the tunnel are on the shelf for now as officials wait for retail development to play out nearby.

As the article explains, there’s potential for development on both sides of Robert Street where the tunnel would cross. That’s not new. So far, none of those projects have come together (the last attempt by Pebb Enterprises failed because they wanted the city to pitch in $4 million to make it work).

What is new is the city saying they don’t want to hinder any potential development, so the tunnel can’t happen.

This is odd for several reasons: Continue reading Robert Street Tunnel on Hold for No Good Reason

Author Readings & American War by Omar El Akkad

This week I finished reading American War by Omar El Akkad. It’s a fascinating speculative story about a second American Civil War 50 years from now.

Two days after finishing, I turned on the radio and there was Omar El Akkad talking about his book. Even better, he was making an appearance in St. Paul the next day. Score.

A Word About Author Readings

I love seeing authors in person. It’s such a unique way to get a glimpse into who they are and how they create. It’s an opportunity that takes the book reading experience so much deeper.

And they’re almost always free.

I wish I had done a lot more of that in college when I was still learning how to be a writer. (One of my first experiences of it came in college—Wendell Berry reading Jayber Crow.)

Continue reading Author Readings & American War by Omar El Akkad

Time for Minnesota’s First Female Governor?

Today I met Tina Liebling, a Minnesota state representative who is running for governor in 2018. It feels so early to be thinking about the 2018 campaign for Minnesota governor. But if I’ve learned anything about the 2016 campaign it’s that we need to be more involved.

Everybody complained in 2016 that they didn’t like any of the candidates. Well, if you want a candidate on the ballot that you like, you need to get involved early and support the candidate you want to see. Continue reading Time for Minnesota’s First Female Governor?

Biking the River-to-River Greenway

I went for a bike ride today in the glorious June weather. I decided to check out the River-to-River Greenway trail in my own West St. Paul neighborhood.

Well, I biked the sections of nice trail, OK trail, crappy sidewalks and really bad connections that make-up what could eventually become the River-to-River Greenway trail through West St. Paul. It’s not officially designated as such just yet, mainly because West St. Paul is dragging its feet and turning its nose at about $3 million of county, state and federal money. More on that in a minute.

Here’s the path the River-to-River Greenway currently takes:

River-to-River Greenway trail in its current form

Continue reading Biking the River-to-River Greenway

The Legacy & Quiet of Muir Woods

Last week my wife and I went on vacation to San Francisco. We were there to catch a U2 concert, which was amazing. We also took in lots of other sights. But my favorite—no big surprise—was Muir Woods.

It’s an incredible place filled with 500-year old trees that tower more than 350 feet above the quiet forest floor.

Muir Woods Continue reading The Legacy & Quiet of Muir Woods

Why Won’t I Shut Up About a Trail?!

A couple weeks ago I spoke at a West St. Paul city council meeting for the third time in three months.

This is starting to get a little ridiculous, right? You might think I have aspirations to run for office, but if you’ve seen any of those appearances it should be clear that I do better behind a keyboard than a podium.

I’m speaking up a lot because I’m convinced with the current political climate we can no longer just sit back and assume everything is OK. So I’ve gone to council meetings and spoken out against firing a city manager, for accepting a grant for sidewalks (which later passed unanimously), and most recently I spoke in support of the River-to-River Greenway trail.

If you’ve been following my blog or social media lately, you may have noticed that I don’t stop talking about that trail. It’s the proposed River-to-River Greenway trail and Robert Street tunnel in West St. Paul. I’ve blogged about it, tweeted, shared on Facebook and talked about it in person. I’ve contacted my city council members, I’ve met with local leaders, I’ve attended meetings, I helped with a Rotary Club presentation. I talked at city council and wrote a letter to the editor.

So why won’t I shut up?

Because I think this trail is a great opportunity for West St. Paul.

But if we don’t support it, it won’t happen. Continue reading Why Won’t I Shut Up About a Trail?!

A work-at-home dad wrestles with faith, social justice & story.