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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Black Lives Matter Protests - We Need To Listen

Category: Society
Posted: 12/24/15 12:19

by Dave Mindeman

Like it or not, the Black Lives Matter protest yesterday, garnered a lot of attention. The Mall of America reacted (overreacted in my opinion) with a heavy police presence and even closed down some stores for about an hour.

Other reactions were wide ranging. Gov. Dayton condemned the action to shut down traffic at the airport. The courts put together a compromise ruling that allowed the Mall of America to prohibit BLM's leadership from coming to the Mall, but refused to block the protest entirely. The Star Tribune chose to focus on customers complaining about stores being shut down. The Pioneer Press highlighted the airport complaints on disruptions. MPR's website led with a comprehensive story about the protest. The cable news networks covered the story as well.

It got a lot of attention.

In the history of civil rights and race relations, it seems obvious to note that disruptions and peaceful disobedience have always gotten more attention than the rhetorical shouts and cries of the affected. This is no different.

With all due respect to the Governor (and I understand he has to do his job), the demonstrations of Black Lives Matter and other groups are working and getting people to pay attention to these situations.

Take a look at the list of each state's top google search for 2015. Minnesota's is "Black Lives Matter". In contrast, our counterparts over in Wisconsin were trying to figure out, "What does bae mean?".

BLM is making progress.

How many of you actually think that without these protests and confrontations, that Governor Dayton would have considered dealing with racial inequality in a special session? I doubt that it would have happened. Even the critics who think this is overreach and unnecessary have begun to turn the conversation toward the protesters.

I get uncomfortable with the direct confrontations that are occurring. Blocking traffic and disrupting the airport has its risks, for both the protesters and the people affected. But nothing else seems to make the powers that be move on the issue.

Jamar Clark is dead - but without the attention that the protesters have demanded, he would be just another number in a sea of statistics. Unarmed black men are dying much too often. And what is even worse, the investigations of these incidents are swept under the rug or tossed aside.

It doesn't matter that Jamar Clark may have had a police record. What matters is that information is being stonewalled and questions are going unanswered.

The police department and the prosecutor's office need to listen to these voices and to act on their concerns. It would also be a good thing if our legislature really did find ways to deal with our state's equality gap. It is an embarrassment to a progressive state and the idea that protesters have to disrupt commerce to get the attention they deserve is also an embarrassment.

Yes, the rule of law is important. But when that rule of law ignores justice, it needs to wake up. If BLM has to grease the wheels of justice in a very public way, then so be it.

Minnesota prides itself on "Minnesota nice", but nice doesn't cut it when individual lives are cut off from opportunity and justice.

Minnesota is better than this - listen to the people.
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Minnesota Is Not Immune

Category: Society
Posted: 11/24/15 15:48

by Dave Mindeman

I had always thought (well hoped) that Minnesota was at least a little better when it came to race relations. That Minnesota "nice" translated into more cooperation in dealing with the problems that lead to confrontational issues in regards to minorities.

Well, I was wrong.

At first I had an ongoing frustration with the educational achievement gap. That there was something wrong with how we approach learning when it comes to minority children. Then I was disappointed by the "unforced" racial segregation that plagues our state in our urban areas and our inability to address that situation. Then I was even more disappointed with the inordinately high black and Hispanic unemployment rate in our state. And our continuing failure to achieve government lowball ratios regarding minority firm hiring. More and more I have come to realize that Minnesota has a deep racial problem.

And then there is last night.

Not only has there been a lack of support for BlackLivesMatter in their ongoing quest to expose problems in the Minneapolis police department, but in addition, here, in Minnesota of all places, we have an element that thinks shooting unarmed peaceful protesters is somehow an acceptable reaction.

Seriously, I am at a loss for words. I fear that we have been ignoring a long standing problem that has been festering and metastasizing deep into our "nice" culture.

I think it has become more visible because our national political rhetoric seems to allow for race baiting these days. But that is only a symptom and we have had this problem for some time. It is right there in all the statistical data - but we can't seem to translate those statistics into real time people solutions.

It was interesting that Sen. Bakk first initiated addressing these racial problems and disparities in special session. And it was predictable that the GOP would scoff at the notion. But the utter disdain shown by a tweet from the CD7 GOP calling it a #NegroProblem crossed another line.

We have been crossing a lot of lines lately. Trump with Muslim registries. Trump and Carson both saying they remember news footage of Muslims in New Jersey cheering when the towers fell. Police shootings of unarmed black citizens has become part of the daily lexicon. In Chicago, they will be indicting a police officer with first degree murder for killing a 16 year old African American male....and they have video which is even more deeply disturbing than the "usual" pictures. Chicago is bracing for massive unrest.

But I had thought Minnesota was a place that those lines weren't crossed. That at least we made an effort to recognize and address these issues.

And maybe we are more aware of them than a lot of places, but we have still failed. We have failed miserably.

I am not sure that beginning a racial dialogue in a special session can do anything of substance, but the conversation is still worth having. No protester should have to fear for his or her life when drawing attention to a very real and present problem. It is appalling what happened last night. It is shameful.

And I have lost confidence in our police. When I watched Almanac last Friday, I had hoped to gain some incite into the viewpoints being expressed. But when I listened to the police union head, Robert Kroll, make his arguments, I visibly flinched. His statements were neanderthal in intelligence. To seriously use the arguments from the lawyers for the police as "factual" data is almost criminal in itself.

We have a problem Minnesota. A deep one and it is getting worse not better. Last night was a wake up call for a lot of us. It was for me.

I realized once and for all....Minnesota is not immune.
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It Is Still Blue State And Red State America

Category: Society
Posted: 11/04/15 13:12

by Dave Mindeman

Barack Obama vaulted to the national stage with his famous Keynote address in 2004 stating....

"Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America -- there's the United States of America".

But like a lot of lofty political rhetoric, it is more about an ideal than any practical reality.

We truly are a divided country. We are Red State America and Blue State America. We are conservative America and we are Liberal America. We have divisions by religion, by sexual orientation, by race, by ethnicity, and increasingly more by economic status.

We want and believe in Democracy but seemingly lack the inclination to participate in it. We complain about government's inability to act, yet perpetuate that inaction by the nuances of an electorate that cannot shed the influence of special interests and money. And we are also locked into this downward spiral by the cynical actions of our political parties. Always looking for an edge or only looking ahead to the next political cycle, they waffle on solutions and blame the other side. Republicans hold power even with a minority status by using the tricks of Gerrymandering and the suppression of voting. Democrats wring their hands when they do get the opportunity to act and back down when criticized or confronted.

Yesterday, Republicans gained more electoral victories. It would seem hard to gloat when the voter turnout is in the low 20% range, but that seems to be acceptable to them. That is how the system is set up. It works fine for them and nobody seems willing to challenge it or move to change it. So, quite frankly, despite the complaints from the populace, the country can only hold itself responsible for this disingenuous method of governing from the fringes.

Big money interests like it this way. There are no big reforms....the status quo is protected....and their own particular special interests can be moved forward without consequences.

All the polling suggests that the country does not like it this way. They are dissatisfied...hold Congress in very low regard....nearly all politicians have a higher unfavorable rating than favorable. We always think the country is moving in the wrong direction, but the national parties always blame the other side and in a narrowly divided country, it works. Each side of the political spectrum promises a utopia if only all of their policies would be implemented. All of the country's problems happen because the electorate allows the other side to have a say. There is always someone to blame.

It has been over 150 years since the Civil War, yet America is still divided along that Mason-Dixon line. The South does not trust Democratic policies and the North can't understand the policies of the Republicans. The rest of the country has followed that divide as well. The western states have a line drawn along the Pacific Coast for blue states and the Rocky Mountains cater to the Red.

Red State America doesn't trust the Federal government. Blue State America avoids the ideas espoused by the states rights of the "other" side.

And the ebb and flow has become predictable as well. In Presidential years, the blue states surge ahead. In off year elections the red states will dominate. Political rules come and go but the ones that perpetuate the divided truth will stay.

Instead of working for common ground, this political season seems to be adding more to the division. Not only is policy contested...as it should be...but we have added the politics of the personal. The use of government for political purposes. The intentional stonewalling of any potential solution which does not fit ideology.

It is discouraging and it is counterproductive, but that seems to be where we are. We thought that Obama's stirring words would really work to change that divide, but it hasn't. The forces of obstruction are too powerful, too dependent on the status quo, and too well financed to allow for meaningful change.

Yes, we are on the wrong path. Yes, fear mongering rhetoric is the norm. Personal attacks are expected. And the division appears permanent.

I don't have any answers for any of this. I merely state the observations that I see. I fear that it will take another major crisis for us to re-examine what we do. We will probably pay a heavy price but we must find a way to do better than this...and some kind of catalyst will be needed.

We can do better. We have to.
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