In the Twin Cities everywhere there are signs that the colorblind and just society that some have tried to convince themselves exists in liberal Minnesota is simply a fallacy. It’s a fallacy that allows all the well-meaning folks to sleep well at night.
Everywhere one looks there are signs of two Twin Cities, one for the White and well off and the other for the colored and dispossessed. A Twin Cities kept separate and unequal by de facto discrimination is what best describes our race relations.
De facto means that, unlike de jure discrimination, it is not ensconced in the law. It simply exists, it is a “fact,” and it is enforced through an unspoken code.
Evidence is everywhere! Last week a young man, Terence Franklin, who had been accused of burglary was chased and hunted down by SWAT teams as if he had shot or murdered someone. The young man wound up dead and two officers shot under mysterious circumstances. A young Latin motorcyclist, Ivan Romero Olivares, wound up dead as police, rushing to the scene 30 minutes later, ran a red light, thus helping cause the fatal accident.
Yet amazingly, the police department, supposedly under new leadership, has not responded to the inquiries of the loved ones of both victims, the would-be burglar or the motorcyclist. Not only have they not responded, but MPD Chief Janee Harteau said the department had better things to do last week — give out police commendations.
Maybe it’s true the department hasn’t sorted anything out yet. But can anyone imagine the police being as callous were the victims White and living in Minnetonka? No, there are two Twin Cities, one White and one of color, separate and unequal.
If it appears I exaggerate, simply walk by the construction sites in downtown Minneapolis. Visit the site on 5th and Nicollet where the new luxury towers “The Nic on 5th” is being built by the Opus Development Corporation. I haven’t seen a Black worker or other worker of color yet.
Check out the other construction sites. Where are the Black workers? Really, Opus construction can’t find a few Black workers?
Ryan Companies is nearly done with its housing and new Whole Foods project on Washington downtown. I didn’t see any Black workers on that site either.
Has anyone seen a Black person driving an Excel energy truck or a CenterPoint utility vehicle? I haven’t, not even in Near North where many of the customers are Black.
Last week, the Star Tribune ran an article entitled, “Housing recovery in Minnesota leaves minorities behind,” which pointed out that minorities in the Twin Cities lag way behind Whites in homeownership. Of course, that shouldn’t have been all that surprising considering the Twin Cities metro area has the country’s largest disparity in Black and White unemployment rates (3.5 to 1).
As the article pointed out, there are a lot of reasons for the gap. There is the problem of sub prime loans and Adjustable Rate Mortgages that were peddled primarily to minority communities. Studies have revealed that even when people of color, especially Blacks, qualified for prime loans, they were given sub prime loans anyway, because they brought higher commissions to the person directly offering the loan.
Needless to say, the system of public education is failing children of color in the Twin Cities as well. Of course, some of the responsibility for learning falls on the children as well, and one has to stay in school to get an education, even if it is on occasion substandard in some places.
But children are not stupid. They see what we see. Many kids of color don’t see a real place in this world for them. It’s partly why they won’t pull up their pants. It’s partly their way of saying, “You have forgotten us, so forget you.”
And as the MSR reported last week, the discipline of the children is unequal as well. There is a punishment reserved for White students and a punishment reserved for Black kids.
The young people at Hopkins High decided to take their message to the streets recently. Young people protesting is a sure sign that times are bad. Kids are concentrating on their studies and having fun, so when they cut into those two things to get the adults’ attention, it’s time we listen.
There are indeed two Twin Cities. That is without question. What is left up for debate is what we are going to do about it. We can blame the victim, as so many of our White brothers and sisters feel the need to do in the comment section after every article delineating the problem. Or we can stand together, show some compassion and empathy, and call out the forces of discrimination.
And our better-off Black brothers and sisters have a responsibility as well, because they too are not completely untouched by this discrimination. They can act as the free brothers and sisters in the Northern United States did during the days of slavery. They didn’t just try to keep their heads low, but they organized against slavery.
They were among its most ardent critics and abolitionists. They helped develop the so-called Underground Railroad. Many even risked arrest trying to free captured slaves who were about to be returned to servitude.
Something, however, must be done to eliminate the de facto discrimination that now threatens to define the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to [email protected]