By Myrle B. Cooper and Michael A. Davis
Last January, St. Cloud mayor Dave Kleis admitted in belated, childish and insultingly simplistic terms the community’s well-documented “158” years of carefully ignored “race-related failures.” Kleis’ “Oops, our bad” admission received genuflections from Stockholm syndrome victims.
Suspicious Twin Cities Blacks assume damage control desperation. (“At MLK breakfast, St. Cloud mayor apologizes for past race-related failures,” St. Cloud Times, January 20, 2014, “Acknowledging the city’s ‘devastating’ history may help it leave ugly past behind,” Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, February 20, 2014.
Heaven forbid St. Cloud devotees are insulted, but the first published suggestion for St. Cloud’s racism apology appeared five years ago. (“For St. Cloud’s racism, exposure and apology the best medicine,” Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, August 20, 2009.
A later apology suggestion ridiculed St. Cloud State University (SCSU) for its famously high Black student attrition rates and historic inabilities to protect students of color in a community known for racial hostility. “A press conference to apologize for racism would be great PR,” (“St. Cloud State: Why do so few Black students graduate?” Southside Pride, December 19, 2013.)
Despite hundreds supposedly in attendance at SCSU’s Martin Luther King remembrance, where were major news media reporters? After decades of reporting racist incidents in “white Cloud,” Kleis feared questions such as, “Why were no plans or timelines offered for demonstrated race-related improvements? Why no joint apology from SCSU President Earl Potter? Those invasive major news reporters might have asked Kleis and Potter why racial hostilities cause so many Black students to transfer to campuses in more civilized, safer communities?
SCSU collects no exit data/information. Maybe nobody wants to know why Black students leave. However, SCSU tracks Blacks (without their permission) who “went on to graduate elsewhere,” but counts them as SCSU graduates.
While considering damning details of Kleis’ blatantly racist city, let’s recognize documented facts rather than fantasy, propaganda and/or revisionist wishful thinking. Any high school counselor or parent advising students of color shopping for higher education might ask Kleis and the hometown university president about glaring double standards.
If foreign students bring such valued backgrounds and experiences, why are far more students recruited from China, India and Nepal than Africa and the Caribbean? Why don’t Black foreign students get “community service packages” like Asian students?
One would think community leaders supposedly remorseful like Kleis over a century and a half of racism would compensate for past admittedly devastating “race-related failures.” It’s those missing news reporters, those respected community ranking organizations and Black whistleblowers who aren’t convinced “white Cloud” is changing significantly.
Also excluded from Kleis’ apology were authors of studies severely criticizing “white Cloud” racism. Examples include: “Feds asking about transcript changes at St. Cloud State University,” Minnesota Public Radio (June 3, 2013) and “At St. Cloud State, Feds investigating reports of secret transcript changes,” Associated Press, (July 4, 2013).
No other campus or community in Minnesota history has been so humiliated by questions concerning Black students’ safety. Why no apology for racism after such an insult? (“Is it safe to send our children to St. Cloud?” Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (February 7, 2007)
Kleis’ admissions of community racism prompted at least one SCSU class discussion open to the public (Miller Library Auditorium, April 18, 2014). Attendees debated Kleis’ apology reasoning. Some claimed there’s nothing to apologize for. Others cited “white Cloud” as Minnesota’s most pathologically racist community. No wonder the only branch office for Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights is in St. Cloud.
Among the most effective individuals and groups exposing and responding to “white Cloud” racism were, in chronological order, Pioneer Press reporter Kristina Torres, Lester Collins and his Council on Black Minnesotans, Council for American-Islamic Relations lawyers (ask Debra Lally and school board members) plus Minnesota Public Radio’s Ambar Espinoza and Conrad Wilson.
Full color ads featuring a Black SCSU student from Chicago imply difficulties attracting Minnesota Blacks (Insight News). Two Black whistleblowers who understand the impacts of bad publicity on “white Cloud’s” brand/credibility/image/reputation giggle like kids on Christmas morning at influences that punish “white Cloud” racism. After all, there must be costs for racism.
Michael Davis is an associate professor in the School of Education’s Teacher Development Department and Myrle Cooper is a retired faculty member both at St. Cloud State University.