By Myrle B. Cooper
St. Cloud’s frantic “last place aversion” efforts to attract new businesses while diverting attention from its reputation for crime, homophobia, racism, sexism and xenophobia would get standing ovations at the Comedy Store and The Improv.
Since St. Cloud’s Area Economic Development Partnership, Chamber of Commerce and mayor, Dave Kleis, have all failed miserably to lure new businesses, they adopted George W. Bush’s advice: “If you can fool some of the people all the time, those are the ones you want to concentrate on.” Evidently, few are fooled.
In desperation, Kleis procures tin-cup circulating beggars, carnival sideshow barkers with PowerPoint presentations, and house slaves to fabricate stories about St. Cloud for suckers at quality-of-life ranking organizations. After record highs for aggravated assaults, rapes, racial profiling stops and FBI-investigated hate crimes, all respected community ranking groups (i.e. Places Rates Almanac, Business Week, Forbes, Kiplinger and Money Magazine) consider St. Cloud dangerous.
From post-Civil War Reconstruction to the Civil Rights era, smaller southern communities concocted tactics for banishing or profiting from unwanted Blacks:
(1) requiring Blacks to be employed by Whites as captive cheap labor sources;
(2) using law enforcement and courts to extort or railroad Blacks to local prison work gangs and work-release projects as unpaid labor; or
(3) banning Blacks from town as threats to White “comfort and security.”
St. Cloud’s tactics were similar. (“St. Cloud police either arrested or ran all Blacks not employed out of town,” St. Cloud Daily Times, 7/28/1916; “Another carload of Negroes here: Police chase many of them out of town, afterward whites chased,” St. Cloud Daily Times; 8/9/1916)
Claims of “most livable,” safest” and “secure” by Minnesota’s citadel of racism haven’t convinced new businesses to locate in St. Cloud. The campaign to attract new businesses relies on: (1) concealing issues of racism while maintaining the racist status quo as a promotional strategy; (2) targeting local Blacks to convince Whites of community safety; and (3) employing checkpoints, dragnets and sweeps to ensnare Blacks for race-based arrests and fines to bolster city coffers and pay officials “on the take.”
If St. Cloud’s growing Black population can’t be limited or reduced, then the campaign will make Blacks and others color pay for their presence. Despite constant news reports of racial hostilities, racism has never been mentioned in any State of the City address. Administrators of St. Cloud State University (SCSU) avoid criticizing mayors on racism.
St. Cloud’s Black population has increased from about 150 in 1985 to over 5,000, or 7.8 percent, in 2010, creating a racial tipping point. (U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)
St. Cloud Times headlines, among one hundred similar, imply community income and safety requires targeting Blacks. (“Police stop 99 vehicles in latest ‘Safe Sober’ efforts;” “Racial profiling case lands St. Cloud in state spotlight;” “Police stop 400 in July program;” “Officers stop 1,100 vehicles in seatbelt campaign;” “Police stop 26 in 2-hour traffic sweep;” “Police stop 175 vehicles in traffic safety campaign;” “Patrol stops 97 drivers;” “Police arrest 15 in driving sweep”)
Preemptory challenges guarantee that few, if any, Blacks are impaneled/seated on local court juries despite Battson rebuttals. Jail surveys indicate Blacks are twice as likely to be incarcerated and serve sentences at least 14 days longer.
After hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans (8/2005), 400 Black refugees were to be transported to Camp Ripley for temporary resettlement in the area. St. Cloud City Hall and local politicians scuttled the plan as successfully as they have resisted a State Human Rights office for 20 years. City hall feared racism-hardened southern Blacks might defy St. Cloud racism far more aggressively than do timid local Blacks.
Another racist strategy used mug shots of wanted (not convicted) Blacks, posted on St. Cloud’s website and 14’ x 48’ outdoor advertising billboards. Astute bargaining by SCSU Professor Debra Leigh stopped such postings.
Students and parents shopping for colleges and universities should read the St. Cloud Times on-line. Also, check the StudentsReview/SR website showing 57 percent of SCSU students said they “would not” return.
Graduating high-schoolers of color considering SCSU should be prepared to fight blatant racism. Anticipate “racial profiling.” Don’t rely on SCSU’s Black faculty or the NAACP for help.
Fear of political suicide, hypocrisy, and maintaining the racist status quo requires St. Cloud City Hall to deny or ignore local racism. “Seriously, I can not visualize the Black community effecting all the needed changes all on its own,” said Mike Landy, mayor’s assistant (excerpt from letter to Lester Collins and Council on Black Minnesotans). In other words, it’s the White Cloud way or no way.
Assaults on “White Cloud” racism must include “stings.” Cops and others must be secretly recorded (via wireless microphone pick-ups at point A, with recording devices hidden to prevent confiscation). Proof of interactions is vital for your defense and security.
Myrle Cooper is retired from SCSU but continues to closely monitor racism and expose a community resisting change. He welcomes reader responses to [email protected]