By Merle Cooper
Recession recovery has been difficult for the most egalitarian, innovative and progressive communities. St. Cloud’s recovery is thwarted as much by area economic conditions and failures as by addiction to racism as low self-image compensation. After 159 years of bigotry carefully driven and exploited by local leaders assuming there’s no tomorrow, St. Cloud has been forced to launch its leaking public relations (PR) lifeboats.
A racist reputation becomes costly when trying to impress businesses, entrepreneurs, and respected city ranking organizations. Since “attitudes are so hard to change,” why not attract positive news media attention through demonstrated behavioral changes?
With St. Cloud’s racist reputation readily available to Internet browsers, plus rejections by the most respected city ranking groups (Business Week, Forbes, Places Rated Almanac, Kiplinger, et al.), community credibility is wanting. The St. Cloud Times asked, “How can we attract new businesses to our city, especially our downtown?” (“From the executive editor: Story highlights city’s new plan to attract businesses”; St. Cloud Times, 11/25/2012)
Evidently, absurd claims of being the “most livable” and “secure” city “on the planet” had even racist business owners laughing. As a result of whistle blowing by a couple of Blacks, Bunnatine Greenhouse and Jonathan Prather (who exposed Halliburton’s no-bid contracts and American Peanut Corporation’s efforts to ignore salmonella, respectively), St. Cloud’s image has pummeled further.
In a desperate act of conniving and contrition-fueled hypocrisy, “White Cloud” recently hired William Blair Anderson as its police chief. Anderson is Black and exponentially better qualified than all his predecessors and staff combined.
Despite St. Cloud regularly topping FBI hate crimes lists, Anderson’s presence means far more to image triage than his sterling administrative and crime fighting skills. The Star Tribune’s all-caps headline implies the community’s lack of progress against racism. (“A SEA CHANGE IN ST. CLOUD”; Star Tribune, 9/16/2012)
After 25 years of resisting a local Human Rights Commission office, City Hall is again ignoring racism. A Human Rights office in Minnesota’s bastion of racism is as threatening as Barack Obama was/is to St. Cloud’s symbol, Michele Bachmann. No wonder St. Cloud State University (SCSU) retains and graduates so few Black students since redress for racism is limited.
Like Dickinson State University, SCSU changes grades to keep Black students, with $7,833 each, in town. (“St. Cloud weighs future of Regional Human Rights Office”; St. Cloud Times, 11/22/2012)
Cooling complaints of racism while maintaining the racist status quo is difficult. Seventy people of color attended “conversations” sessions carefully controlled and manipulated by the Art of Hosting (“St. Cloud community conversations build connections”; St. Cloud Times, 11/15/2012).
The “conversations” strategy was simple. Keep ’em talking because: (a) endless “conversations” buy time to pacify those increasingly agitated about racism; (b) victims continually discussing their oppression usually settle for non-redemptive suffering; and (c) those most vocal are monitored by symbolic house slaves and plantation overseers.
“It’s an excellent idea for St. Cloud,” said one participant “who was disappointed more elected public officials didn’t attend.” The goal was “facilitating relationships between multicultural community members that could in the future work to solve complex problems such as education, tolerance and economic development.”
Beyond fear, why are Blacks so easily pacified by diversionary “conversations” about “tolerance” when perpetrators were absent by convenience or design?
Despite near weekly conversations hosted by Mayor Dave Kleis, evidence of “solving complex problems” of education and tolerance remains nonexistent. Without the racists, “conversations” with conscientious objectors (in anti-racism wars), genuflecting house slaves and Stockholm Syndrome victims are useless.
The U.S. Departments of Civil Rights, Education and Justice verified maltreatment of Black K-12 students. Ex-school board president Debra Lalley’s attempted cover-ups failed. (“St. Cloud school board approves agreement ending discrimination complaint”; St. Cloud Times, 10/28/2011)
Similarly, City Hall and SCSU presidents, with the exception of Dr. Roy Saigo (2000-2007) who suffered race-based imprisonment as a child during WW-II, have conspired continually to avoid or ignore St. Cloud’s most abundant natural resource: racism.
St. Cloud’s blatantly bigoted community has provided aid and comfort to White supremacist groups since 1923. (“Ku Klux Klan now at St. Cloud: Mysterious organization has invaded County seat and has 75 members”; Belgrade Tribune; 1/18/1923; “Hate group activity flourishes: Movement on rise again, report finds”; St. Cloud Times, 1/28/2007; “Cross found burning in Seberger Park”; St. Cloud Times, 11/3/2009)
St. Cloud State’s daring few Black whistleblowers (i.e., Blondie Isabel, Scott Stone, LaSandra White, Regina Henderson, Ray Shorter, Kristy Collier, Michael Demmick, Michael Birchard, Rodney Walker, Marvin Lyman, Sam Bass and 25 Somali girls) were collectively responsible for forcing St. Cloud to hire a Black police chief.
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]