Tag Archives: racism

School Board Elections Matter

A school board candidate threatened me with a slander lawsuit last week. I guess that’s part of community news now? (See my update at the bottom of this post for more.)

But let’s not focus on him. (My conversation on race with the only person of color still running is a much better story to focus on.)

Big election on Tuesday—lots of school boards at stake. Hope you’re ready to vote.

I put together a voter’s guide and candidate chart for the nine candidates vying for three seats in my school district, ISD 197, plus a levy renewal (yeah, it’s a lot):

It’s an off-year election and nobody turns out for school board elections (seriously: the last contested election had a turnout of 5%!).

But have you seen the headlines? People raiding school board meetings? The unhinged comments? Books being banned across the country? It’s wild.

These elections matter.

This election is feeling a bit like 2016, when everyone assumed things would work out and we all sat back and waited. And then woke up on November 9 in shock.

So vote.

Find out what’s on the ballot in your area and vote.

Tell your neighbors, tell your friends, and vote.

(And maybe support local news too. Here’s how to support my efforts.)

Mr. Quimper and the Evil Drums

I grew up in an fundamentalist Baptist church in the 1980s and 90s, that espoused—among other wacky things—that drums were evil. Yes, straight up devil-worshipping, possessed by demons evil. As goofy as that sounds, it was genuinely believed and strictly enforced—though maybe not widely known. I’m also convinced, decades later, that it was blatantly racist. 

It was stupid too, but I’ll get to that. 

Continue reading Mr. Quimper and the Evil Drums

MN House 58A: Koznick Reveals Fear-Based Strategy, Preese Offers Hope

Today saw a few interesting twists in Minnesota state politics, including the Republican-controlled Senate ousting a member of Governor Tim Walz’s cabinet and a DFL House member disclosing that he had COVID-19. But no twist was bigger than Republican Representative Jon Koznick of Lakeville mistakenly emailing strategy talking points to his Democratic opponents instead of his Republic colleagues. Oops.

It’s more than embarrassing, however. On the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, when we’re reminded to ‘never forget,’ the Minnesota Legislature debated whether or not to override an extension of Walz’s emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 1,800 Minnesotans have died, more than 190,000 Americans have died, and we’re debating whether or not this is an emergency.

It’s the content of Koznick’s strategy that goes beyond embarrassing. He was attempting to urge his Republic colleagues to stay on message in the debate:

“COVID issues are not our winning message. PUBLIC SAFETY is our ticket to the majority, let’s win with that.”

Continue reading MN House 58A: Koznick Reveals Fear-Based Strategy, Preese Offers Hope

Cory Booker: George Floyd Is a Referendum on Us

A couple weeks back Senator Cory Booker appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to talk about George Floyd and the protests and the reaction. It’s an incredible interview and I encourage you to watch it.

The whole interview is about half an hour, but there’s about a 15-minute chunk that gets away from the current politics and focuses on racism and this moment in America that is just powerful stuff.

Booker and Colbert have been discussing the protests in Washington D.C. and how President Donald Trump cleared out Lafayette Park for a photo opp, and Colbert asks what it’s like in D.C. right now and if this is a harbinger of things to come. Booker launches into a very personal and emotional response that is worth your time:

Continue reading Cory Booker: George Floyd Is a Referendum on Us

Ruth Richardson: A Story I need You to Hear

Ruth Richardson is a state legislator in the next town over. I’d vote for her if I could, but she’s not in my district. I’d vote for her because she is a giant of strength and conviction.

In the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, she shared a very personal story that I need everyone to hear. It gets at the heart of how things are different for Black people in America.

Richardson had to tell her Black son, Shawn, not to go for a run in the neighborhood: “I had to tell my little boy that you can’t run in our neighborhood.”

Continue reading Ruth Richardson: A Story I need You to Hear

George Floyd Aftermath

This morning our family went down to Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed. There’s basically a shrine at the corner of Chicago and 38th that’s blossoming with art and signs and flowers. It felt like visiting the Lynching Memorial, somber and quiet.

We also drove down Lake Street and saw the devastation from the looters.

It’s been a bit wild to see the near-universal condemnation of Floyd’s death and seeing protests erupt in hundreds of cities and all 50 states. It’s like we might actually reach a moment where change happens.

Our family also marched in a protest on Sunday. I carried a sign that said, “No more white silence,” because I’m so tired of white people (myself included) not being outraged about ongoing racial oppression.

Doing church while making my protest sign.

But as we’re a week or two removed from Floyd’s death and the violent riots, I’m wondering if I should have encouraged white people to be silent in a different way. I’m starting to see more and more white people speaking up on social media. Some are encouraging, and some less so.

It’s very obvious right now by what people say and what they don’t say where they stand. There are a lot of people who passionately proclaim, “Don’t tread on me,” who have been silent about literal tyranny in our streets. There are people who bemoan the violence and looting, but say nothing about police killing an unarmed black man in the street. And there are lots of white people with plenty to say who have done very little listening to the black community—or at best have cherrypicked a few conservative black sources who reinforce their racist ideas.

We see you.

Look, I don’t have a lot of answers here.

But I am seeing a lot of deeply white conversations about racism, and that’s a good sign that you’re missing something.

Listen to black voices experiencing oppression.

Don’t dismiss them when you find something uncomfortable or an idea you disagree with. Don’t throw out your ‘what abouts.’ Don’t throw up your own offenses—you being offended about the tone of the conversation or an accusation or a metaphor you don’t like pale in comparison to the real injustices the black community face on a regular basis.

This is hard work we have to do right now. I’m amazed at some of the progress we’ve already made—arrests, charges, national protest, etc.—but we have a long, long way to go.

As Ibram X. Kendi says in his book How to Be an Anti-Racist (a hard, challenging read), “There is no neutrality in the racism struggle.”

Or if Kendi is too “radical” for you, how about a fluffier source for the same idea:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” –Bishop Desmond Tutu

Oh, Minneapolis

What a crap week. It’s bad enough dealing with a pandemic and all the stress and worry that entails. Then police violence and the murder of George Floyd. Then tear gas and more violence and more death and Minneapolis burning. I don’t have the words.

(Speaking of words, people like to quote Martin Luther King Jr. about non-violence, but he also spoke about riots. Some context on those comments is especially helpful.)

Since I don’t have words, two songs come to mind this week.

Let the People Be Free

The first is a protest song by Jayanthi Kyle called “Hand in Hand.” It was written in 2014 and, because of course, the lyrics are still quite relevant:

The day’s gonna come when I won’t march no more
But while my sister ain’t equal & my brother can’t breathe
Hand and hand with my family, we will fill these streets …

Mr. Policeman
I can’t breathe
Lay down your weapons and your badges and listen to me

Jayanthi is also in a chorus group called Give Get Sistet that’s pretty amazing. Nobody is doing performances right now, cuz pandemic, but they’d be an ideal group to bring in right now.

Oh, Minneapolis

The other song I thought of was Ben Kyle’s “Minneapolis.” The lyrics aren’t nearly as applicable, but the mournful “Oh, Minneapolis” captures about how it felt this morning to see images of the city smoldering.

O Minneapolis,
I saw you and Saint Paul kiss
Neath the moonlight in a Mississippi mist
Never saw a thing as beautiful as this
Oh Minneapolis

Rain down, purple rain (I wanna hear the sound)
I wanna feel the royal rain on me
I wanna feel the holy water running like a holy stream
I wanna be baptized in the city in the Mississippi

Asking the Right Question About This Moment in History

I’ve written about politics a lot lately. Most of it is hyper-local politics, because I feel like anything else is just noise, but locally I can make an impact. But I’ve been reluctant to write about national politics. It’s just so divisive and I feel like I’m only adding noise.

But I’ll do it now because this is one of those moments.

Before I get into it though, I want to refer back to a post I wrote on Inauguration Day. I talked about how this did not feel like “normal” political division. Trump ushered in something new. I have disagreed with the “other side” before, but I have never felt so alienated in my own country. (That’s certainly a statement of privilege, and I own that.)

So while I talk about current political issues, I urge you not to dismiss me as partisan hack whining that his side is losing. This is something much bigger than that.

What Would You Do?

Recently during a family vacation my family went to the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. This is a fantastic, gut-wrenching new museum on the National Mall that everyone needs to go to.

Part of the exhibit included a lunch counter where you could sit down and work through a survey about the civil rights movement on a touch screen.

The questions often felt unfair. We know the historical outcome, so of course we know the “right” answer. Continue reading Asking the Right Question About This Moment in History

Fannie Lou Hamer Documentary

Check out this preview of a new documentary about civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer. I discovered Hamer for myself a few years ago while reading about the civil rights movement and was just floored by her story.

If you don’t know much about Fannie Lou Hamer, I encourage you to dig into her history.

Like much of the civil rights movement and the wider fight for justice, it’s many of the same conversations we’ve been having over and over and over again.

Such as standing for the national anthem:

“It’s hard for me to stand up and sing the national anthem. I stand up and I work my mouth, but I don’t always come through with the verses. ‘O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed,’ cuz actually the land of the free and the home of the brave has meant the land of the treed and the home of the grave for so many of us.”

Something I love about Hamer is that she says it like it is:

“This is just a lot of crap that folks talk about the true democracy of this country.”

Learn more about the Fannie Lou Hamer documentary and consider making a donation to support its production.

“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”