“Minnesota Nice” and Minnesota’s Racism

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Photos courtesy of Patience Zalanga

As much as Minnesotans love to think they’re special – and there’s something to be said when Fast Company recognizes the residents as being the third “happiest” in all of the United States – there’s one way they’re positively common: racism. In October, Huffington Post reported that Minneapolis-St. Paul is the third worst city for Black people, and publications like The Atlantic and Washington Post have been asking why such a progressive state is so regressive when it comes to racial disparity.

“Minnesota Nice” exacerbates the state’s racism.

Minnesota Nice is the transplants’ nice way of calling born-and-reared-here Minnesotans passive-aggressive. For those of us who’ve lived in other places, such indirectness is baffling at best, and emotionally abusive at worst. Unlike what the Star Tribune and City Pages offer in their analyses about “overcoming Minnesota Nice,” the problem is deeper than a state full of polite, but shallow, conversationalists. This isn’t about Indigenous people and people of color (POCs) simply needing to be more assertive in shaking hands with and smiling more often at white people – in other words, being nice to them. The interpersonal “remedies” offered by the mainstream press and its “alternative” subsidiary flippantly dismiss the realities of how racial inequity operates here and squarely puts the burden on Indigenous people and POCs to correct it in order to make white people more comfortable and not challenge – if not outright dismantle – the particular “friendly” construction of Minnesota’s racism. In other words, this state’s niceness isn’t nice at all.

The most common way this plays out in race relations is in what social justice thinkers and psychologists call microaggressions. As psychologist Derald Wing Sue notes particularly with racial microaggressions, they’re the “everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them.”

These are some of the microaggressions I’ve experienced since arriving in the Twin Cities in late June:

  • That question – said through a wan smile – from a white progressive dude who was not quite my supervisor asking how did I “know so much” on my first day on the job as a manager.
  • That white mother of a mixed-race child who, during a post-church service friendly conversation, says to me that her child has “rhythm” because the child’s father is Black.
  • That caregiver who, through implying that she has some mixed-race folks in her family, thought she could say some anti-Indigenous crap regarding the recent wild rice controversy, namely that the Indigenous people had no more rights to the water to farm wild rice than “anybody else,” even as my housemate and I argued that Indigenous people were here in the first place and what the state government worked out is some sort of recognition of that fact.
  • The same caregiver came back several months later, tried to low-key call me an “uppity feminist.” When I shut her down, she nervously asked me if she “offended” me – and has been skittish around me since that confrontation.
  • That bizarre announcement in my neighborhood listserv warning about Black Lives Matter protesting at the State Fair, and one of the neighbors commenting that it’s “time of bring out the fire hoses.”  When confronted, he flipped out.
White fairgoers jeer at Black Lives Matters protestors.

White fairgoers jeer at Black Lives Matters protestors.

The reality is too many white non-conservatives – be they by presumption of politics, person, partners or profession, both here and in the greater nation – view themselves as inherently “not racist.” The caregiver implied as such in her microaggressive anti-Indigenous comments yet wanted to convince me they were OK because she had POCs in her family. They think they are redeemed by  “good intentions,” and also because they frame racism as individualistic, overtly hostile or violent and removed from themselves by location or age. A racist by this framework can only be a Klansman living far from the venerated Upper Midwest tor Grandpa Eugene bringing his racist views to Thanksgiving dinner. Grandpa Eugene and the Ku Klux Klan counter the seemingly self-effacing social performance that is Minnesota’s character because they’re directly and openly showing their racism. Microaggressions, on the other hand, allow for plausible deniability, which fits perfectly with the passive-aggressiveness that is Minnesota Nice.

Andrea MN Nice PQ 3Minnesota’s racism is colored by the Law of Jante, the Scandinavian social ethos as fictionalized in Aksel Sandemose’s “A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks,” that took over this area and contains what we recognize as Minnesota Nice.

The principles are:

  • You’re not to think you are anything special.
  • You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
  • You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
  • You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.
  • You’re not to think you know more than we do.
  • You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
  • You’re not to think you are good at anything.
  • You’re not to laugh at us.
  • You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
  • You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

With the eleventh, more putative, principle:

  • Perhaps you don’t think we know a few things about you?

Where Minnesota Nice crystallizes into Minnesota racism is when, for example, white people indirectly expressing their vitriol on social media about Black Lives Matter-St. Paul (BLM-SP) conducting civil actions at locally cherished events such as the State Fair or the St. Paul Marathon — events that are part of the Minnesota Nice identity. According to racism in America, people of color should not protest our oppressed conditions out of a combined sense of not being smart enough to understand our oppression – how it works and who’s responsible – and gratitude for being allowed to exist on this soil. This fits neatly into the Jante principles of not thinking one or one’s people as more important or that anyone cares about either one. Just who do BLM-SP marchers think they are to confront our niceness with constitutional rights?

On the microaggression level, this idea manifests in ways like when the caregiver called me an “uppity feminist” and the white male not-quite supervisor asking me how I “knew so much” on my first day on the job.  As if I had broken the tenet, “You’re not to think you know more than we do.”

Furthermore, American racism asserts that Black people in particular cannot protest the police brutality, mass incarceration, a lack of affordable housing, low wages and other very real conditions because

  1. Some of us are making it. Oprah Winfrey is usually brought up during this point in the conversation.
  2. Such situations are due some “cultural pathology” about single mothers, “black-on-black crime” and other phenomena. Refer to “The Moynihan Report” as a manifesto about this “pathology” under the guise of a well-meaning policy paper on eradicating poverty.
  3. The stereotypes about Black people lacking intelligence–most famously scribed in Charles Murray’s debunked IQ book, “The Bell Curve,” and too many white sports commentators’ casual observations about Black athletes’ “natural” abilities as opposed to how white athletes are so “intellectual” on the playing fields.

Andrea MN Nice PQ 1Minnesota Nice also protects the state’s racism with the eye-rolling indignation when called out for saying or doing something racist, be it a person or a policy. In contemporary American racism, it’s worse for a white person to be called out on their casual racism than the actual racist comment or action. For the white person, being called out means the discomfort of judgment, of being seen as less than the inherently “good” person that white privilege promises. But that judgment goes deeper: it not only means that the white person is not only figured out – and by a person of color, who is not supposed to be smart enough to figure out racism, let alone when it’s directed at them – but also that the white person is held up as pathetic and worthy of dismissal, if not ridicule. That’s why my neighbor flipped out when he was confronted for his comment about turning the fire hoses on the BLM-SP marchers at the State Fair. The Law of Jante has a tenet for that, too: You’re not to laugh at us.

But what very few people say directly is that the Law of Jante and its American child, Minnesota Nice, produces an abiding mediocrity. The social ethos dampens individual achievement – or, as mentioned earlier in the piece, any showy individualism – because it’s met with passive-aggressive hostility. The hostility enforces an amiable middling that comes out in Minnesota’s race relations, too. It allows, for example, the Minnesota Historical Center to acknowledge the four-decades-old Hmong community with a bargain-basement priced exhibit – and that only came about because that community pressured the center to recognize their existence and influence. Or it’s that same center reducing the Rondo community’s deep and extensive history to a corner display in a room with a hodge-podge of exhibits about Indigenous people, POCs and poor whites. Or the University of Minnesota dismantling a program and department that help people of color aim for academic excellence and enjoy a fuller college experience. All of these are examples of the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” or, as the Law of Jante would say, “You’re not to think you are as good as we are.” Institutions in this state feel they only need to do the barest minimum to recognize and accommodate communities of color and that minimum should be good enough for the them, at least good enough to shut them up and keep them on standby to show off Minnesota’s “diversity.”

Andrea MN Nice PQ 2Maybe it’s just me, but the right response to the Atlantic and Washington Post busting Minnesotans the white lie of progressivism isn’t solved by writing cheery how-to guides for “outsiders,” or bright-sided admonishments to long-term locals to be socially open to newer residents, or decrying people of color exercising their constitutional rights to publicly demand racial equity. When the Twin Cities show up on Top 10 lists for achievement gaps and racial disparities, how will that statewide passive-aggression help affect positive change? That’s something you just can’t “nice” away.

Black Lives Matter protestors at the Minnesota State Fair 2015

Black Lives Matter protestors at the Minnesota State Fair 2015

 

Correction, 4:49 p.m.: The Black Lives Matter actions at the State Fair and the St. Paul Marathon were done by Black Lives Matter-St. Paul, not Black Lives Matter-Minneapolis. The correction has been made in the story, and the Twin Cities Daily Planet apologizes for the error.

127 thoughts on ““Minnesota Nice” and Minnesota’s Racism

  1. It’s so funny that this article just came out because I experienced some of the “MN Nice” the other day when I was listening to the KS95 morning show. Thank you for writing this thought provoking article.

    I wrote the following to them:
    Good Morning KS95 Morning Show,

    Today I was really disturbed listening to your morning show, which I generally enjoy and listen to on a regular basis. I am referencing the badly contexted racial jokes that came around the topic of Tom Jones deciding to take a DNA test to see if he has any African decent. From this striked jokes about how Asians are bad drivers and that Fish is “CaucAsian”, etc. Not okay. I am Korean American, and adopted by Caucasian parents. I grew up in primarily what is known as white privilege. In the past I will admit that I have laughed and even made such jokes regarding myself, but since working for the Minneapolis Urban League and immersing myself in what African-Americans and minorities in general face daily regarding racial discrimanation I am beginning to see why they do not find things like this funny. Worst of all I believe it’s these little slight comments and jokes, that supposedly mean no harm, that are doing the most damage. It says to people go ahead keep making fun and marginilizing this group of people. In this case Asians and African Americans. Right now, MN is facing huge issues being one of the worst states as far as helping African-Americans and minorities. I would encourage your morning show to be brave in discussing those topics and how we can all help each other to be loving and kind. Your voice carries a lot of power and weight to set an example that other’s would follow. I hope in the future next time you will think twice before you think you’re making a harmless joke. Thank you for taking a moment to hear me out.

    • As a white person with a disability I resonate with this article- this is beyond race- it is valuing and relating to others different than oneself. A dis-service is done when we aren’t inclusive as the sub-text is very similar. .

      • My mother had polio and I’ve never forgotten the looks she would get from some bus drivers and passengers, back in the early sixties, those looks of irritation, that she should stay home where she belongs.

    • Marie: I had goosebumps reading your comment. I am originally from India and am so sick and tired of people coming up to me and making the Simpson ‘Appu’ accent joke. Their automatic assumption that I will share in the ‘in’ joke just because I’m Indian followed by, “I hope you don’t mind” is so pea-brained. Thank you for saying what you said.

      Ms. Plaid: Take a bow. A beautiful and evocative piece of writing.

  2. I couldn’t even read it all. My ancestors moved here & never confused ignorance with racism….because they experienced actual hardship. Some idiot thinking her kid has rhythm because of melanin does not equal getting lynched for looking at a white person sideways. Good grief! -A Minnesotan person of color who grew up here.

    • The thing is racism works on a continuum, from the white woman who, in thinking that she was having a “friendly” conversation with me, says something so ignorant to lynching, which my own up-South family dealt with living in Mississippi. In fact, as quite a few critical-race theorists and folks who just observe life would say, the casual racism of the comments tend to create an atmosphere where lynching is possible. If you would have read it all, you may have caught this:

      “They think they are redeemed by “good intentions,” and also because they frame racism as individualistic, overtly hostile or violent and removed from themselves by location or age. A racist by this framework can only be a Klansman living far from the venerated Upper Midwest tor Grandpa Eugene bringing his racist views to Thanksgiving dinner. Grandpa Eugene and the Ku Klux Klan counter the seemingly self-effacing social performance that is Minnesota’s character because they’re directly and openly showing their racism. Microaggressions, on the other hand, allow for plausible deniability, which fits perfectly with the passive-aggressiveness that is Minnesota Nice.”

      That you’re a Minnesotan of color who essentially feels the same way doesn’t change how that continuum functions. To say that that since Minnesota people of color aren’t getting lynched that somehow we should be silent in the face of racial ignorance–which is still racism–seems, at best, messed up. If that’s how you wish to move through your life, do you. But quite a few POCs living here, both transplants like me and those who’ve lived here since they were conceived, if not born, aren’t OK with any part of the racism continuum.

      • The complaint Cleaning123 makes reminds me of a friend who, while telling another friend she was getting a divorce, the other friend said “what, is he beating you?” As if only physical violence should be the only justification for divorce! On the other hand one must be careful to avoid shaming when discussing these topics. Shame never teaches. (I am by no means saying Plaid is behaving in this way, this article is very important in pointing out that MN Nice is essentially “we’re doing you a great big favor by acting nice, so act grateful, dammit.”)

      • I’ve long believed the the term “Minnesota nice” is and perhaps always has been an oxymoron. Born and bred here I always understood it to mean unfriendly and reserved while at the same time helpful.
        I did not have to move far to experience it first hand. We moved from one part of St Paul to another. I felt isolated as a newcomer. I can’t even begin to imagine how much more profoundly that is felt by any person of color.
        But I will say this: my Minnesota nice demands that I treat you with respect. And if my insensitive comments cause you to feel or think that I don’t respect you, I owe an apology. Because often I am awkwardly trying to be friendly.

  3. It just baffles me, if I moved to France I would embrace French culture or leave. Come to MN embrace MN culture or leave. You write as if there are no Minnesotans who are POC. I’m insulted, seriously, at your critique of my culture, but it’s your opinion & I respect it. I just think you might be forgetting there are POC who happen to be proud of this state & the culture here. Consider that next time you critique MN.

    • You are obviously clueless! I have grew up in MN since I was three and would say I am as Minnesotan as they get. I have experienced so much racism, overtly and covertly. The author is spot on. MN nice racism is engrained in this culture just like overt racism is engrained in the culture of much of the south, still in 2015. I would never embrace a racist culture, even though I am from here! You should be ashamed to call yourself a POC!

      • “You should be ashamed to call yourself a POC!”
        You must know that people of color experience shame all the time. Is it necessary to reenforce such a sentiment?

      • You have lived here since you were 3, I’ve had family here since 1900. If I’m clueless about being a Minnesotan than well, I’d love to meet someone with a clue.

      • I totally agree with this article. I recently moved here and the people are very passive-aggressive and discriminate while feeling they are entitled to all the jobs, qualified or not as long as they are white.

    • The problem with your comment is that what you’re really saying is people of color who decide to move here should be OK with racism because, hey, that’s just the way it is and, after all, the POCs who live here seem to accept it, right?

      Like there are Americans of color who may love this country yet still criticize it–Dr. Martin Luther King, Ella Baker, James Baldwin, and Rosa Parks all come to mind–there are quite a few Minnesotans of color who may be quite proud of being here and the culture here are also highly critical of the state’s racism.

      Love and critique are not mutually exclusive ideas. If it wasn’t for people critiquing how things are–think of the various human rights movements that have arisen in the last 60 years, such as different strands of Civil Rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ(IA) rights–then we wouldn’t be where we are now. And they critiqued the country so hard partly because they love America so hard and want to see the country to be the best it can be.

      • This IS what I saw in MN and the Dakotas as a white transplant. Nice to people’s faces (mostly) but the prevailing sentiments are: 1) believing their own niceness propaganda. 2) believing that they are the way they are (low crime outside cities) because “the cold keeps the “riffraff” out, something I heard several times, and dude, you know what’s really meant. 3) not really liking or trusting outsiders; they’re merely tolerated.

        I’m a pale blonde but I felt unwelcome here. I got cold shouldered at work when I spoke up to a manager in a business meeting (!) stereotyping a black receptionist when she left the room. Keep your miserable icy states; I won’t be back.

        • You’re totally off base on the “cold keeps the riff-raff out” saying. Has nothing to do with race. It’s more a comment about being tough, hardy people that can fight through hardship. If you’re not, you won’t last long.

          People who didn’t grow up in Minnesota really struggle to understand the Scandinavian mind-set. If you did, you’d realize that you’re “not being accepted” is pretty much just how everybody treats everybody else. It’s not animosity. It’s just that Scandinavians are very much raised to be independent, reserved, and skeptical. If you go in with a chip on your shoulder, as it sounds like you did, you never will fit in.

          • So, is it not possible for Scandinavians to adapt to the larger community which includes people of other cultures? Why is it that your assessment of Scandinavians requires that everyone else change so that Scandinavians can continue to what they do? Minnesota is a state wherein many cultures preside. Scandinavians who do not see and/or adjust to this fact are, in my opinion, part of the Minnesota Nice problem.

          • Not sure why you Minnesotans believe your definition of “tough” validates your insular social matrix.

            I grew up in the NYC suburbs. There’s a certain toughness you need to take on to survive there. I found it to be a hypercompetitive, emotionally exhausting environment fueled by the constant fear of being priced out, surrounded by people obsessed with material wealth and social status. Our winters weren’t particularly pleasant, either. You need to be tough – that potent mix will eventually drive you nuts, if you let it.

            That all said, the place doesn’t have a reputation for being passive-aggressive, insular, or standoffish. If you can find a way to make it work for you, you’ll make friends and feel included. We’re honest about what sucks about our home, but we’re still proud of it. Despite its many flaws, what makes NYC great is its ability to incorporate people from around the world and allow them the opportunity to express themselves freely.

            The currency of success for a newcomer in Minnesota, apparently, is to demonstrate a completely uncritical love for its culture and mores, all the while sticking it out for an indefinite period of time until locals feel comfortable interacting with you. There’s something incredibly disappointing, ridiculous, and fairly fascist about that.

        • “2) believing that they are the way they are (low crime outside cities) because “the cold keeps the “riffraff” out, something I heard several times, and dude, you know what’s really meant.” That’s a Prince quote, he meant just what he said, nothing to do with race, just thought you should know.

        • I agree with you I am a single white female diagnosed with autism and an immigrant from the Netherlands. The people here don’t like to get close to you at least the ones I met, they don’t invite you to their homes, and I asked a person once why we never spent time together she mentioned she didn’t have to explain it. Also I told a lady about my struggles being single and she said she is glad she is not in my shoes. I usually call people they never call. You only get invited to events and not for no reason at all. If you stop going to a church they don’t notice. I am sure not all Minnesotans are that way but I have not met very many. Also I learned if you are a Christian you are a Christian first and then your nationality and has Christians being fake friendly is not right no matter what your culture is. Also I agree with the racism because I am part German and have been called a Nazi. My sister was asked if she knew Hitler. I have been told Europeans don’t bath they are all Socialists don’t wear bras, don’t have a life because they spend it mostly with their families. The truth is people are not nice and if you call them on it they say they are nice and social to their friends and family. I believe being social also welcoming newcomers that just want to belong and are not trying to kill or destroy a culture. Also on a website I read through the hoops you have to jump just to get friends here. Why not just talk to a person be friendly and ask them for coffee and they gladly accept? I know I will probably get people mad and say maybe you were not nice. I tried so many years to reach out. I called people invited them to my house and after a while you just give up. It was okay when I was younger I got invited to people’s homes but that was in the 1980s and it’s no longer that way. I miss the past.

          • I was raised in Minnesota, and was honestly only TAUGHT to invite people to events. Asking to go to my friend’s house got me castigated by my parent’s. “You don’t invite yourself to people’s houses!” Then how the hell do they know I want to spend time with them? “Hanging out” is incredibly foreign to me and I don’t know how people do it–not that I don’t want to–I don’t. Know. How.
            So on some level, depending on the person, it may well be a multi-generational issue of being socially stupid and ignorant to cues (both giving and receiving) than some snobbish “I don’t want to see you. You’re unworthy.” Just food for thought. I think many of us are awkward around strangers.

            I will say, I despised people that moved into my community and bitched about it. “It’s too cold. There’s nothing cool to do. People are hicks. Where I’m from is so much better.” So I think there has to be some self-awareness of transplants about what they are putting out there before accusing locals of being the only snobs.

            Passive aggression poisons my family, and “I’m polite but don’t give a damn about you,” is certainly real behavior in my own past, even with childhood acquaintances. I thought I was just being so egalitarian, happy to let them continue what I found to be self-destructive behaviors “if that’s what makes you happy.”

            I still love Minnesota and long to return-when I do I’ll keep this article in mind and try to be a better ally, and less insular in general.

    • Wow, thanks Cleaning123 for verifying all of the great points this article made. As a POC in Minnesota I have often faced this kind of response when trying to respectfully critique real inequalities that exist here. I hear much similar to what you posted. “well if you don’t like it here get out!” and you state “my culture” as if YOU have some manner of individual ownership of some sort of unified MN culture here? Your post basically communicates,
      “don’t like it, then get out!” and you are speaking for POC of Minnesota so well! It’s such a blessing that you are here to represent them all. Get a clue. You don’t live in a perfect world here in MN. It’s time for people like you to wake up and realize all aren’t endowed with he same privileges, why is it so hard for so many people to realize that?

      • I just came across this article as I was thinking about how to write about my experiences in Minnesota. Not just about the racism of the Minnesota Nice culture, but also how it feeds mediocrity. This article is on point. I am a POC, and I promise you that Cleaning123 does NOT speak for me or most of the POC’s I know. I enjoyed your piece Andrea.

    • “Come to MN embrace MN culture or leave.”

      Yeah, some of us have tried everything you suggested but the “leave” part and still get treated like so much human garbage. So what we’re left with is the “leave” part, which, if it were that easy, would be what many of us would do.

      Have you ever tried to leave a place? I don’t mean Northeast to Uptown, or Highland Park to Cathedral Hill. Do you understand the complexity of what goes in to a long-distance move? There’s a financial factor, an emotional factor, intricate logistics, and, hell, a health component. I have moved cross-country several times. It is incredibly naive to think that a relocation is no big deal: you leave a lot behind.

      Y’all Minnesotans can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you want to stay true to your marketing pitch, BE OPEN TO WHAT NEW PEOPLE HAVE TO SAY and LEARN TO BE INCLUSIVE OF FOLKS WHO ARE DIFFERENT THAN YOU or embrace the Lake Wobegon stereotype. We outsiders would be a lot less aggrieved if we didn’t feel hoodwinked – a lot of us move here thinking the place is one thing and are presented with another, completely different, passive-aggressive reality.

      My advice to you? Grow up.

      • So glad you wrote this <3 Moving is not always a viable option, and there is usually much more involved than people think. We are stuck here now, due to a contractual obligations, and ethics. ( IOW : They paid for our relo, and I think would likely "burn" my husband on a reference, if he tried to leave. ) And,yes, that is exactly how the both of us feel – "hoodwinked" – very poignantly put :<

  4. I think I am the only negative comment. My first week on a job as an Assistant Director, I had people comment that I seemed “awfully young”(I was 35), “wasn’t you sweet”, and even “how did you get the job. I am a white woman who was hired at an institution with, at that time, largely male senior staff. I hate the relatively new term “micro-agression.” I faced aggression. People say stupid things – often with intent, but sometimes there really is no hidden agenda. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Our society is now being conditioned with a concept that has made one a psychologist rich —-micro aggression—- which validates animosity or judgment through perceiving hidden intent. College campuses are setting up safe areas for students who are triggered by an opinion they disagree with or micro-agression. An example from the article – My sister-in-law is Comanche. Half the family supports the rice fields; the other doesn’t. I assure you it has nothing to do with race – to them it is fiscal management. And no accusations of racism are flung about at family gatherings. The woman in the article was stating her opinion. Just because she disagrees with you, she is not automatically a racist.

    I have come to believe that for a truly honest discussion on racism that can lead to meaningful change, the first step is acknowledging that racism is a four lane highway. It is not a “white’s only” club these days. Racism remains the most fundamental obstacle to true societal equality, but finding (searching for) racism in every conversation is unproductive.
    One could make a reasoned argument that this article has an anti-white bias. Even the photo and statement of how different it would be if a black man was yelling at the cop. The pictures from BLM marches.- consistently show the no retaliation by cops for the commonplace verbal abuse by protesters. The NY March last week is a perfect example. And, for many watching, elicits anger rather than empathy.I am not saying we don’t have a long way to go – we do. But, in my opinion, passive-agressive reaction under the umbrella of micro-agression triggers a counter reaction in the community.

    • I agree with your statement about racism being a four-lane highway — actually, I think of it more like a tangled, multi-colored, multi-strand ball of yarn. As a black woman, I have seen and heard my share of racist activity from the Black Community. I also think, at times, hypersensitivity to non-racist situations complicates the discussion. BUT there is still a need for discussion because racism still exists. It is a part of the fabric of this country. It doesn’t matter that some people can’t see the weave of that fabric. It is there. I’m glad your family didn’t talk about the water controversy as a race issue, but for some people, it IS, in part, an issue of race. To dismiss their view because you can’t see or agree with it represses the conversation. Assuming someone is being “too sensitive” or “politically correct” because they experience micro-aggressions (yes, this is good, descriptive and accurate word and was well-explained in the article) reinforces the notion that the person is not to be believed; therefore, discovering the other person’s experience with racism is not to be addressed.

      Also, I find it interesting that you consider your experience at work as aggressive, but can’t see how other people might find their own experiences as aggressive.

      • That last paragraph…YUP ..I thought the same.

        Clearly racism really only affects people of color because white people still run the world unfortunately. I say that and I’m white.

        You can hate on us all you want. We still don’t have to worry about losing out jobs because of the color of our skin or that type of thing .

        Clearly we have a long way to go on the issue of racism against poc..I mean good lord. One of the presidential candidates is endorsed by the kkk!

  5. It ain’t right to write “POCs”. “People of color” is already plural. When you write “POCs” you are actually saying “people of colors”, which is already implied by the term “person of color”, which is a catch all term for all non-white people. #themoreyouknow

    • I wouldn’t worry so much about an apostrophe, but the term POC does bug me because it has that PC sound to it. Since it means, non-white, I think people should say that, and if they need to identify a particular ethnic group or skin color, use the proper word to make it clear whom you are referring to.

      • Non-white emphasizes what they aren’t. POC emphasizes what they are. One implies white is the norm. Which is a problem in itself, cause it isn’t. And hasn’t been for a while.

        • People who can’t enjoy what life has to offer until everyone around them celebrates and embraces their existence are setting themselves up for disappountment. Having the freedom to be whatever you want to be is more than half the battle.

          Why waste your time worrying about a concept like Minnesota Nice. It doesn’t even exist. Some people are nice some are not. Share your life with the nice ones with a sense of humor!

          • Your comment is the wisest, sanest one. Racism is real, and I think largely based in xenophobia. but our growing Victim Culture is BS.

  6. There is deep wisdom in this article. We can’t be ok with being a progressive, liberal state and perpetuating a Mississippi sized achievement gap. I know the author will take abuse for her views, but please know that many of us know you’re correct and simply don’t know how to deal with the situation, or, in many cases, with our honest fear of difference and change. I hope we can grow together beyond this despite the many voices that profit from inspiring hatred and resentment.

    • I certainly agree with most of the arguments in the article. Microaggressions are everywhere. POC are not the only recipients. Pretty much anyone who doesn’t speak as Minnesotans do (odd words: bucket/pail, rubber band/binder etc) is instantly identifiable as an outsider. However, I disagree somewhat with the tone of the article.
      “For those of us who’ve lived in other places, such indirectness is baffling at best, and emotionally abusive at worst.” The specific complaint Plaid raises (about indirectness, subtle comments etc.) is about this: Scandinavian personalities. Since I can’t do underlining, let me repeat, everything she is complaining about is specific to Scandinavian-American culture. If you are in doubt, listen to a few Prairie Home Companion shows. I am not Scandinavian, but have Norwegian-Americans in the family, grew up with Norwegian-Americans, and went to Norwegian-American schools. While each individual Scandinavian group is not predominant in Minnesota (Germans are the most numerous), in the aggregate, Scandinavians predominate. Like it or not, Scandinavian culture permeates most of Minnesota. So what I disagree with (and am very surprised the editor permitted it) is this: Plaid’s labeling of another culture’s habits with derogatory statements. If Plaid really wants change, or to spark a civil discussion, she should refrain from labeling cultural behavior as “baffling” and “emotionally abusive”. Ad hominem attacks do not get us anywhere, any more than the opposite type of comments critiquing cultural proclivities…. I have seen many blacks be very jovial and fun. Some people call them “loud and obnoxious”. I have seen many Native Americans be quiet and modest. Some people call them “sullen”. Let’s not call people and their cultural habits names. Sometimes the cultural habits are destructive or absolutely not acceptable, female circumcision comes to mind, but in those cases, there is still a need for cultural engagement and discussion in order to move the ball in an acceptable direction. I hope the editor of the Daily Planet will also keep this in mind.

      • Your proof that this place is primarily influenced by Scandinavian culture is a crappy radio show and a few people you grew up with?

        Your argument would be stronger (though far from bulletproof) if:

        1) you provided statistical figures for your claims that the “Scandinavians in the aggregate” demographic of MN is greater than its German-American ethnic make up

        and

        2) You provided a cross-cultural comparison that, in fact, the traits you are referencing are prevalent in Scandinavian nations.

        You also seem to confuse Scandinavian culture with Scandi-American culture.

        At any rate, while I agree that ad hominem attacks don’t help anyone, diverting the issue by making a vague ethnic baiting argument is misguided. Passive-aggressive, insular behavior is generally regarded as unhealthy everywhere but here, and though it negatively affects all people who aren’t used to dealing with it, it really impacts local POC communities. That would be my main takeaway from the piece, not Scandinavian-American culture being under attack.

      • I doubt you agreed with most of the article. When someone’s cultural proclivities harm the very existence of a another person, I think it is well within reason to label it appropriately. I think it will be a travesty, to speak blandly about racial aggression, even if it is micro. Does the laughter of the POC malign your accomplishments at work? Does it dismiss the real life and death situation you experience whenever you encounter the police? I think not. You are not a person on here because you want understanding and peace. You want to be cuddled in your covert racism. That’s a classic example of Minnesota Nice. Even if you are not Scandinavian. And it seems you were able to bring out your fellow “Minnesota Nice-niks”. Some of them keeping it short by just saying , “Nice”. Well your response wasn’t nice, and not insightful at all. And if you wanna know, I am not being nice. I am tired of cuddling disguised racism.

  7. We fundamentally disagree on the level of racism in MN. “Micro aggressive racism,” is not part of MN culture. There are far more important things to worry about in this state, like poverty, improving education for children living in poverty etc. People say idiotic things about all sorts of subjects, people make generalizations, they think emotionally instead of logically, it’s part of life. Critizing an entire state of people based on your experiences to me seems like you may be opporating from emotion, not logic. The civil rights movement was faught (my parents were part of it) to end systematic racism so POC could take advantage of opportunities previously denied to them, micro-aggresstive racism in my opinion is like cultural appropriation a bit ridiculous.

    • Your response is a typical MN seemingly progressive response. However, you not only missed the authors point but you proved it with your unawareness of your own bias and racism. Micro aggressions are connected not separate. Micro aggressions are the reason for poverty and the culture of MN needs to change. The ironic thing is your response is the emotional one. Please open your mind and connect the dots. Your progressive stance is racist and you are part of the problem. Time to be ok with being oncomfortable and have a honest conversation.

      • “Micro aggressions are the reason for poverty and the culture of MN needs to change.” That is so far off base I don’t even know where to begin. My own racism you say? I judge everyone as an individual. Who am I racist against? I’m black & solidly middle class, I guess I missed how microaggressions were supposed to prevent me for going to college. Sigh.

        • You have no clue what you are saying, Cleaning123. You missed the crux of the argument to make a point. I suppose wrote this as a “progressive” what friend looked on. So for you, emotion is the driver of your response. You come across as of the “fake progressive”, who just check a box so they “seem to be”. You make absolutely no sense to say micro-aggressive racism is not part of Minnesota culture. Have you lived in Minnesota or just pretending that you are from here. I am black, solidly middle class, but I will tell you that micro-aggressive racism is undoubtedly part of Minnesota culture. Where have you, as a POC lived in Minnesota? Under a rock?! And Jeremy, yes he is serious. Don’t be too simple. He meant the racism, as practiced in Minnesota, is a cause of poverty in many communities with POC. I hope you guys come back to this conversation. I promise you no malice, but absolutely no politeness either.

  8. By the way, I never said people should be silent in the face of ignorance, if someone says something ignorant I politely correct then & move on with my day. It’s been working great!

      • Nope, it’s because it labeled people and generalized while complaining about racism. It categorized POC, transplants and Minnesotans, like there are no POC who are part of MN culture. It was offensive, and the writer was so clueless at its offensiveness that it was hard for me to process.

        • I’m interested that you use the word “clueless”: Seems a lot of people got the “clues”, but you did not. Just because you don’t share the experiences doesnt mean the experiences don’t exist.

  9. Well, I’ll be sure now to never compliment a new hire on how well they are doing on their first day on the job. Wouldn’t want to offend anyone.

  10. I asked you, “how did you know so much about Dragon Boat races,” probably out of ignorance because I thought they were kind of a unique thing to Saint Paul. I was merely curious. Nice article.

  11. This article spoke to me. It explained many of the things I would feel but didn’t know how to explain. As an X generation white female transplant from a very diverse area of Central CA, I can’t believe how much micro-agressive racism there is here in the Twin Cities.. from everyday at work, the local news stations and even in coversations with fellow peace activists. My brother also relocated and sometimes we watch the local news and both look at each other “unbelievable” as there was another story told or news reported with a racist slant. My parents are teachers and everytime I read of the dispareties in schools and what the schools are going to do about it, I have yet to see how they are retraining/educating their white teachers/administrators in what white privledge is and how to confront it, both in self and in others. The author nails it in her article. How can white people here not see it, or not care ? Well I guess this article explains it. I’m going to hang on to it so I can send it to others who don’t get it and who I haven’t been able to explain it to. I often confront it when I see it but many times I can’t articulate it. We all need to improve, and we can only do that with our eyes open. Yes, Minnesota, you do have a problem, and it is ugly and there are many of us non-MN white people who see it every single day.

    • I teach in a suburban metro area district and I can assure that Minneapolis and the surrounding districts are actively training teachers about white privilege, and working on equity plans. I, the district I teach in, and the surrounding districts have worked with the National Urban Alliance, The Pacific Education Group, have received training around Courageous Conversations, we run S.E.E.D classes, we all have equity teams, many of the districts have equity coaches that work with teachers, we are working on Culturally and Linguistically Responsive coaches, etc. We obviously still have a lot of work to do, but I feel I can safely say that there is deep commitment on the part of Minnesota schools to address the problem.

  12. Andrea: The Law of Janke is essentially “All Power to the People” The individual has importance only as part of the collective. The way you have framed the list gives the impression that, under Janke, “you” can somehow be separate from “we”. That is not the case, “you” is/are always a part of “we”. Read that way, Janke makes sense. In fact, it works pretty well in Denmark…as long as one gets with the program.

    • As someone who lived in Denmark for a short time, they also have microagression. I noticed that there wasn’t much mixing with the large middle eastern/Pakistani population. There are programs like there are here in MN but just like here.. you saw separation. I think the problem isn’t with POC trying to be part of the “program”.. it is the whites always changing the bar of that “program”. I work in the financial world.. and work with POC who have business degrees getting passed over for jobs or positions with lesser experienced or educated white people. I see it in meetings. I even see it at Potlucks. I agree with the author on the Law of Janke, in that some people think other people aren’t part of the group.

  13. A lot of interesting opinions in the comments. I just want to add that there is a distinction between opinion and fact. What you think is an opinion and what you experience or actually happens is considered a facts. People who organize for a change to occur in a society obviously have grievances that need attention. If you can’t seem to understand why, take a moment to ask them and hear them out before you dismiss them or add to the problems. Hate starts from ignorance and ignorance is simply not knowing a piece information that is vital to a peaceful quality of life.

  14. I like how the price tallied the cumulative effect of small random comments. However, calling them “micro-aggressions” doesn’t provide a way to respond to them that isn’t also a “micro-fortification”, which is to say that it creates in the person toward whom the comment is directed (the term of course comes from that perspective) the same always-on-guard posture that “MN Nice” was coined to describe. It may be better instead to think of them as small windows into the other person’s bad information. I would ask that if I ever say something stupid like the author chronicles, you respond to the situation honestly (and immediately) by calmly offering your truth. I can be open (and on my good days I feel I am) to acknowledge there are privileges I haven’t earned. I think that most people, minnesotans included, are willing to listen.

    • in your comment, the author,( or other POC) has to once again be called upon to change her attitude or behavior. That is how I hear/understand that students of color have to do in the schools. Instead of the administrators or teachers having to take some time, step back and see what their atittude or behavior is/has been, we hear of what programs are being implemented to change the student. I would like to hear how teachers and adminstrators need to look at their own bias and attitude.

  15. Sometimes, when it seems like the problem is everybody else, maybe you just need to look in the mirror and realize maybe the problem is in fact yourself

  16. I am glad this article came out but I don’t think it would have if it were not for the Huntington Post listing this Minnesota as one of the worst places for black people to live. I notice that articles like this are just an after reaction, kind of like an explainer or buffer to the negative press. These types of articles say that I know there is an issue but here is our side of the story.

    The saddest part is that I know some wayward black people who will read this and try to brush it off as being nothing. They will generalize that racism is everywhere. Well, it is but when you have places rated 1 , 2, 3, you had better be worried about going to or living in a place like that. The racism is through the roof which means it is also harder to get jobs which means bad living.

    The unemployment rate was also very bad for Black people living in this state which still some will deny.

    Up South rings so true for Minnesota. The only reason why Minnesota has stayed out of the news for so long regarding their racism is the fact that you have a ton of racist liberals( who proclaim to love blacks and shout their wink wink beliefs of equality)are in denial that they are racist. They work hard to give this state a clean bill of health against racism. They have done well at it but the lid keeps getting pushed open and now only fools will try and say this state is one of the better states especially for black people.

    This state has surpassed the racism of the southern states and that says a lot.

  17. Obscure Scandinavian social principles that most of us have never heard of don’t justify your argument, their application sounds more like using your own racism to prove racism exists in MN. Clearly it exists, but the personal examples of slights youve recieved are neither nice nor passive-aggressive, so maybe debunking minnesota nice as the crux of your argument doesn’t work either. The problem with getting anywhere unpacking racism between us all is that no one is willing to allow space to be offended, NO side thinks they should have to tolerate faux pas and cultural misunderstandings, but that messy space is where real dialogues occur and have the power to bridge. Microaggressions are a part of that space, and while uncomfortable, they are an invitation for that bridging to happen. ‘Minnesota nice’ avoids entering into real conversation on these things, and ignores the issue, which is real, but blanketing the entire state with assumptions about where in scandinavian history our social ills come from is a little hypocritical too, no? Doesn’t strengthen what you’re trying to get across. Maybe feeding the divisiveness isn’t what we need either.

  18. Why do you, the author, permit so few to speak for so many? You fail to entertain the idea that your experiences could have happened anywhere, because these things exist everywhere. Everyone feels entitled to something; your entitlement appears to be your perceptions.

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  20. The invocation of Jante’s law in this article is entirely misguided. It’s not fundamentally about “outsiders” – based on race or any other characteristic. It’s about the Scandinavian principle that no one is special. It’s like Tall Poppy Syndrome on steroids. Whoever you are – blond, pale, Norwegian/Swedish/Danish as they come, A+ student, perfect attendance at church – you are not better than anyone else, and you shouldn’t act like you are. Is this a weird phenomenon? Perhaps. It certainly underlies the shallowness described in this article. But, given its cultural influence in some of the happiest countries, and US states, it’s hard to dismiss entirely.

  21. I relocated to MN after college, lived in Mpls for 15 years- then moved to Norway where I have lived 10 years. Janteloven is more the underpinning of socialist attitudes in practice. It means my kids do not receive grades in school. It discorages flashy displays of wealth. It greatly narrows wage gaps between managers and non-managers. It promotes working 37.5 hours a week, and taking the Month of July off as a common vacation. Rich and poor both receive wellfare, and post-secondary (all education) is free. I am not ssying all aspects of Janteloven are good. But I feel its inclusion cherry-picks aspects in support of the writer’s agenda. True- individuality is highly discouraged, but the principles will appear unduly negative through the cultural lens of Americans.

    In my mind, MN nice is the result of being a false-progressive state. Liberal urban cores are surrounded by very conservstive donuts. People often look the same, but there can be huge disparities in values. It is a social minefield as they passive-aggressively tolerate the ‘extreme’ views of others,

  22. My comment yesterday seems to now be deleted. It was only that stereotyping an entire culture as “passive-aggressive” might itself be prejudice and offensive.

    Please don’t delete this post.

  23. For what it’s worth, it strikes me that this article falls into some of the same patterns that it criticizes others of, this sense of knowing the “other” people and what’s happening in their heads. The article makes assumptions about what other people are thinking and puts them into a box of the author’s own perception.

    Something similar to Hanlon’s razor is needed in this area. We need to avoid assuming our interpretations of other peoples’ actions is necessarily correct, especially when those interpretations are negative. Otherwise we end up fighting giant, socially approved strawmen instead of actually listening to each other.

  24. great artical thanks for wrighting it. your spot on, i feel the need to share a little anectdote from my own life, i was suppervising my ex while she spent some time with my daughter and she was trying to get in my good books and she said, “i miss you especialy that cute boong(boong is a local coloquial term for aboriginal/black/monkey) nose of yours” all i could say was “that is offencive on so many levels” at which point she became highly uncomfortable and didnt talk to me again for a good few 100m of walking. i actualy identify more as scottish irish mostly because due to my first nations ancestors being generations back and them having been assimilated i have 0 recent family history connecting me to any given first nations culture. i do however have darker complexion and some not neciseraly steriotypical irish/scottish morphology.
    the sadest part of it all was she thought she was giving me a compliment which in a way it was but loading it and phrasing it in a highly derogatory racial slure without even realising it.
    plus while we had been together i had educated her on just why you dont call someone a boong or a monkey or a nigger or a wog or a spic or any derogatory racial slur/steriotype as a compliment, yet within a year or so to returning back to area she came from and her old circles she was sprouting the same old language despite now deffinately knowing why it was inapropriate.
    this is someone that considers themselves a “hippy” has parent that goes to india to visit gurus ectra, but the culture she lives in is so steeped in racism that its just how they talk there even when they itellectualy know better

  25. I think this article uncovered what the “MN nice” really means even though it’s pretty clear to most thoughtful folks. I think it’s tough for POC to live in MN, now imagine you’re a POC and an immigrant! MN nice translates “I’m not gonna hurt you but I hate your guts and you’ll never be anything here and if you try to be something here well do everything of our power to distrubt it; we feel uncomfortable seeing you here and we want you to leave right now!” Good lord, have you ever went to the DMVs to get your license? the faces are so unfriendly, and Btw the Twin Cities are the only places that a minority will be safe, it gets really deep once you try the rest of the state.

  26. I have to agree with the idea that ‘Minnesota Nice’ leads to passive aggressive racism that can be much harder to address than the in your face variety. The first step to overcoming racism is admitting you’re racist. As an older white male, I’m racist as hell. All I can say for myself is that I try curb my racist tendencies when I become aware of them. Maybe I’m deluded but I do think that Minnesota has been less unfriendly than most places in the US would have been to Somali immigrants. On the other hand, we have a LONG way to go before we can actually say we’re addressing the pressing needs of our immigrant and indigenous citizens. Minnesotans need to engage and accept our neighbors as part of us, even if they don’t adopt ‘Minnesota Nice’. If we can put the Scandinavian traditions of pulling together as a community and helping those in need to work for everyone, we’ll be able to EARN the ‘nice’.

  27. I was censored from this comment section approximately two weeks ago, and want to know why.

    Is it because I identified a difficult truth: that the real issue is not racism but culturalism?

    Because I accurately described negative examples of Twin Cities youth “street” behavior that I observe on an essentially daily basis, and doing so is not “PC” or some other such euphemistic nonsense?

    Or perhaps there is a very slight chance that I have better critical-thinking and writing skills than Ms. Plaid? Really, can anyone take a writer who uses the term “microaggressions” seriously?

    I was bullied in public school almost DAILY from ages 13-16, would be categorized by some medical professionals as disabled, and am a long-term member of a well-known civil-liberties organization. . .yet I think most members of Gen Y/Gen ME need to grow some protective coating.

    • The following are the guidelines with which we moderate all comments made on the TC Daily Planet:

      COMMENT SECTION RULES:
      No profanity
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      No libel or personal attacks (particularly against private citizens)
      No posting of another person’s private information (doxxing)
      No naming victims
      No harmful stereotypes

      Twin Cities Daily Planet reserves the right to remove comments that violate these guidelines. We do read every comment and evaluate how it fits, compliments or responds to our mission. Continued harmful commentary that is off-topic and off-mission can result in a user ban.

  28. Pingback: Andrea Plaid: Minnesota Nice And Passive Aggressive Racism | The UpTake

  29. Thank you for speaking the truth. I experienced so much racism everyday in this state, every person I’ve met: white or black whose moved here from other states complain about the extreme passive aggression and I’ve met few black people who stay long term.

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  31. Part of overcoming Minnesota Nice is being able to directly address someone who has offended you. Not possible in all cases—with a new boss, for example—but in many cases it can open the door to understand and actual, meaningful progress. It takes vulnerability and trust in both parties, but the alternative is just a vicious circle.

    Likewise, insofar as racism involves applying labels and making strident assumptions about others, part of overcoming racism is not taking one offense and extrapolating from it all manner of assumptions about the other person’s intelligence, motivation, level of enlightenment, basic human decency, and worth as a human being.

    Unfortunately, I see this author engaging in both behaviors: refusal to engage in person those who could benefit from understanding her experience, and demonizing anyone and everyone who has slighted her—completely discounting them, not one of them is worth squat in her book. Is progress her aim, or revenge?

    Four of the five scenarios mentioned at the beginning of this article, unnerving as they are when they occur, have occurred to me—numerous times—and I am a gay white male. I may lack the intellectual wherewithal to discern what gives rise to incidents like this. I tend to take them one at a time. If it bugs me enough, I will address the offender directly. If not, I move on.

    I get the infuriating frustration with ignorance, degradation, and violence on so many levels and at so many scales. And I agree wholeheartedly that it should NOT be just up to the “outsiders” to adapt and reach out. The problem is, by applying a one-size-fits-all label of “racist” to everyone from the insensitive grandma to the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, the label loses its meaning and it creates a lose-lose situation for white folks who want to do right. By discounting out of hand, and with obvious disgust, even well-intentioned and/or “liberal” whites, one loses the opportunity to create meaningful bridges and opportunities to educate. I am a teacher and also do field work in rural areas and, therefore, have ample opportunity to confront racism; even so, because I am not a POC, I have as much opportunity to get slammed as a racist and even to be actively rejected as an ally. All one can do is to roll with the punches, humbly learn what lesson one can and to continue trying to do the right thing.

    The most depressing thing for me, personally, is that the internet—while creating a platform for building coalitions and for disseminating news and information—also creates an environment where we get to demonize people with even slight differences in opinion or people who largely share our views but want to explore nuances. It’s sad and it’s self-defeating.

  32. I grew up in the Twin Cities and, while recent generations of my family were all Scots, turned out to be a culturally-Scandinavian girl: polite,
    pleasant, non-confrontative, always looking for ways to be helpful without being asked, and quite standoffish, even “cold”, by the standards of the Mediterranean cultures that dominate the Boston-NYC corridor where I currently live.

    Trained in psychology (at UMinn) I have to laugh at the term “micro-aggression”. It reminds me of Freud, whose diagnoses could never be proved wrong since, if he declared it was X and someone showed that the evidence didn’t fit, he’d blandly declare that it was a reaction-formation to underlying X.

    If someone bumps into me in the hallway, it’s almost certainly not the case that I was attacked! Attack is an intentional act, with a conscious motive driving it. Aggression is just a fancier word for attack. Unless intent can be shown, labeling some event a “micro-aggression” is an attempt to turn a usually-unintended hurt –a metaphorical bump in the hallway– into an intentional attack. It’s not very healthy.

    Wiley, the cartoonist who draws “Non-Sequitur”, recently lampooned that kind of self-interested over-valuation. A woman who’s been eavesdropping barges into a conversation at the diner and declares herself offended by something said. It turns out that she mis-heard, but nevertheless declares that people having a conversation should be more sensitive to the feelings of non-participants, especially those who might mishear or misunderstand (I was reminded of the flap over Dr Carolivia Herron’s book “Nappy Hair” (see http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/1998/12/16/16hair.h18.html ))

    The late Erving Goffman PhD noted in his book “Stigma” that victims of stigmatization are expected to educate the “normals” who do the stigmatizing. That’s a heavy burden and very unfair, but equally unfair is to declare that the “normals” must minutely monitor and correct their behaviors until the stigmatized are fully satisfied, and that anything less proves that they are intentionally racist/sexist/ableist/etc. That’s unlikely to end well for anyone.

    On another note, I think that lutefisk had to have been less slimy in the past. Uff da!

    • Still, and with all of that being said… Mean people suck, and Lutefisk stinks. And the northern prairies are an area that is known for being hostile to “outsiders”. If this were not true, there wouldn’t be so many people on here with similar experiences.

  33. re:”Institutions here feel they only need to do the barest minimum to recognize and accommodate communities of color and that minimum should be good enough for them, at least good enough to shut them up and keep them on standby to show off Minnesota’s diversity.” In higher-ed it can be worse than that – more of a support diversity so that our programs (of primarily white students) can benefit. Check out this recently posted “fellowship” for Native American students to study Native American art history at the University of St. Thomas. The recipients get the cost of tuition only – which will have to be turned back over to the school…they pay $210.00 for books and course material. The stated #1 goal is to 1) bring broader perspectives to the course, thus enriching and providing nuance
    to our teaching in the humanities and TRANSLATION – these students are going to be treated differently than other non-Native American students – and they are not going to get any compensation for what they bring – they should be PAID.
    The #2 goal
    2) allow Native American students to gain personal and/or professional
    enrichment from the opportunity to learn about Native American art in an academic context. ALSO Problematic – to apply one must already have a B.A. or B.S. uh….this experience is not going to be that novel.
    In the application students need to provide proof of being an “enrolled member of a federally recognized American Indian tribe….” and also in an interest statement indicate how taking the class will benefit “you personally and professionally? Your community?” Scholarships should NOT demand recipients take SPECIFIC courses… not sure if the link will show up… http://www.stthomas.edu/media/collegeofartsandsciences/arthistory/pdf/St.ThomasNativeAmerFellowship.pdf

  34. I’ve lived here since 1970. I’m an immigrant from the West. But everytime I hear these rants from other immigrants, I just shake my head. They are living in a state that does way more for those in need than the majority of states (over the protest of those who hate spending public money this way). But unlike me, it seems there are lots of American-born immigrants who are looking for slights everywhere. One Buffalo NY woman thought the way Minnesotas WALK was cold and hostile. Blew my mind. Stop the self-pity. Learn the culture. Adapt. That’s what homo sapiens are supposed to be good at. This curse of victim mentality stops our brain from using its adaptive talents. Why do people think we have such large Hmong and Somali communities. Because compared to other states, Minnesota cares.

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  36. This article basically defines the whole of my 19 years of life in Minnesota. I couldn’t have explained it better. Thank you

  37. Living and working in MN, I have had countless experiences of racism. I used to be a nursing assistant (NA) while I was going to nursing school. I was the best NA and all the nurses that I worked with loved me. When I graduated and got my license, I applied for a position and was hired. The aggression started and soon some of the nurses won’t even talked to me unless they were giving me a report. The hospital was located in the suburbs and I was the only minority nurse in my unit. I went through a couple years of hell. Eventually, I left and started working in a bigger hospital that was more diverse. MN is nice only if you are working below the white people. As soon as you become like them means have a degree and wear the same badge, everything changes.

  38. What I’m about to say will no doubt be misconstrued and railed against, so I stress that this is my personal experience and perspective:
    You’re dead right about this.

    Thing is, it’s not just you or people of color. It’s anyone different, in any way.
    Your article has deftly outlined every conclusion that I started making a few years ago (especially the law of Jante!) about what could possibly be behind this bizarre attitude here, after many more years of enduring pure hell while trying to get by in this xenophobic place.
    More to the point, years of trying to get out of this xenophobic place.

    I could go on for days (no really – I’m actually considering writing a book), but I’ll sum it up as best as I can.

    I’m white, part Scandinavian, and have some ancestors from this general area. I’m also ridiculously energetic and enthusiastic about nearly everything, especially the arts in any form. I wear my heart on my sleeve and like to express myself and for others to do the same. I encourage discourse, civil debate, and speaking up. I love new perspectives and experiences. I believe there is always room for improvement, especially in government, workplaces, and communities at large.

    I get along famously with just about anyone from the East Coast.

    I am positively ostracized here.

    The punchline is, Minnesota propagandists say “If you don’t like it here, leave.” I’ve been trying to do just that for over 5 years now. But, with excessively high cost of living and disproportionately low wages, the silly bastards have made it nearly impossible for a “freak” like me to get the money together to do so.
    Do not worry though, Minnesota. I am on my way out. It’s all officially set. Six more weeks, and I am permanently, finally gone.

    Which is why I’m writing this. I finally have the ability to speak up without fear of losing my job or my (alleged) friends.

    My own misery here does not even begin to compare to what people of color put up with. I have witnessed and called people out countless times for comments and blatant acts of racism, and am sadly privy to what the white people say behind closed doors and amongst “fellow whites.”
    It’s appalling.

    I won’t tell you what your experience here as a person of color is like. I can’t.
    What I can tell you is that unless you’re born and raised here – preferably 3+ generations back, Scandinavian, have little to no outside travel experience, and never once dare to suggest that anything in MN could use improvement, you’re screwed.

    I’m not saying you’re not targeted because you’re black, rather that the local yokels can see at a glance that you are what they consider to be different, and in MN, anything different must be destroyed.

    Diversity is a good thing. Outside ideas and perspectives only make people better.

    Black Lives Matter. Unfortunately, Minnesotans are so freaking bigoted that they can’t even accept outsider whites.

    Godspeed, Andrea. I admire your courage and strength to keep fighting.

    • I’m glad you got out <3 ( But, I fear we are stuck here :-<) Everything you wrote… It may piss some of the locals off, but it's the truth! I am a woman of mixed ancestry, but my eyes, and skin are very light, due to having a blond-haired/blue-eyed father. ( People can say the cruelest things when they think you are white! ) We've been here not even a year, and there are days where I feel like I'm losing my mind. I am so glad I found this article, and others who are going through what we are. I feel less alone, now, and better able to cope <3 *BTW : Don't ever apologize for how you feel/write – it was spot-on , and 3D real! ( In a world full of fakes – real is a diamond! ) I hope you're happy wherever you are in this world.

  39. In response to Escapee, I know what you mean. I grew up around a large metro area in another state, and moved to Minnesota for a job. Even though I am white and blond, I quickly noticed a strange reaction when I did what I normally do in other states (e.g., I was filling a prescription and asked a question of the pharmacist about whether it was really necessary to completely avoid alcohol while taking the medication. ( I rarely drink but once in a while, I have a taste for some beer; usually no more than 1/2 bottle, it didn’t matter much to me, and I ended up feeling sorry I had asked). The reaction was very strange. The pharmacist asked me to repeat my question, as if she didn’t understand, and then asked me to wait while she checked, that resulted in the rest of the pharmacists gathering around with her and taking turns staring at me. Finally, the first pharmacist returned, stared at me some more and just said that the doctor recommended no alcohol while taking the medication, which I already knew (I was taught that it was rude to stare, and was puzzled by having a growing group of pharmacists making a big deal out of asking a simple question, to which, “I don’t know” would have been a perfectly fine answer. I had heard how nice Minnesotans were supposed to be before I moved there, and this did not feel like anything nice.) I encountered this same sort of reaction several other times, including with my student’s lack of questioning anything I said to them, even if it made no sense (I encouraged them to question authority, even when it was me, as I had taught the same type of students in two other states, and they did not hesitate to question what I told them, which led to better understanding (I thought). My school resisted anything but the same old same old, white, non-latino men in charge, affirmative action is something to get around, resist the appeals court judge’s order to institute affirmative action measures to equalize opportunities for traditionally discriminated against groups, if a woman is hired, harangue the dean to allow the hiring of another white guy, too (who was not qualified for the advertised position, as was the woman) to keep the voting male-dominated, make sure the affirmative action officer knew their role was to convince complainants that they had no case, and then warn the president and school attorney that some trouble might be coming and work to stop it in it’s tracks, (by threatening the complainant if they don’t withdraw their complaint, if necessary.) To prove that there was no racism in a school that had numerous lawsuits file against it, the administration and the union listed all the workshops that had been held (not required, of course, so only the people who didn’t need them attended), and all the consultants that had been hired (and ignored when their report concluded there was indeed a problem.) I grabbed an opportunity to leave, as I didn’t want my children to grow up learning that diversity was to be quashed. I occasionally check in and see that nothing has changed in central Minnesota. Now, the favorite targets are Somalis, with police even being called to the high school to deal with harassment (of the Somalis). The only way to get people to see that diversity is good is to first have enough of it. That’s what affirmative action is about.

  40. I agree what happened in Minnesota is contemptible. As a Minnesota native I am embarrassed.

    However, I moved to Kansas 5 years ago. I have NEVER seen such blatant acts of racism and prejudice as I have in Kansas. Against anyone who isn’t a caucasian male business owner.

    Racism and Prejudice are exhibited in MANY forms and the ABUSE is just as painful;
    physical, emotional or economic consequences. I’ve had enough “Southern Hospitality”

    Despite recent unexcusable activities in Minneapolis. MINNESOTA NICE still exists within the majority of Minnesotans. I’m headed home to Minnesota.

  41. By in large Minnesota is one of the most racist states in the midwest. DO NOT BE FOOLED. And don’t fool yourself while you’re at it. The most insidious thing about Minnesota racism is that it’s people have convinced themselves that they aren’t racist. We are SOOOOO progressive. We attend BLM protests and pretend that we have no inkling or racism because we don’t say racists things. Go to a BLM protest and you’ll still see the division. Whites don’t talk to blacks but they have NO PROBLEM speaking for them and taking up their cause because it gives them something to do and a reason to feel self-important. Hell, might even get you on the news!!!!! YES!!!!

  42. I am in your corner after reading this article. I moved here from New Jersey about seven years ago and as New Jersey which is not commonly in high regards when it comes to a rundown on all of the states I can absolutely relate to every single one of the principles you are experiencing. If for any second I get a good idea in my head about something subconsciously and i’m just walking down the street you can almost guarantee some mean old lady is only right around the corner waiting to scowl me for my injustice to the niceness. It’s like a revolving reflection with the people here in my opinion. Constantly being judged as a self righteous outsider who just “is not from here.” I think it comes as more of an inferiority complex right now than anything else for outsiders. I remember moving here without a single idea of what Minnesota was like, looking back I was pure and innocent, and I cannot even remember how many times I have been asked completely out of the blue “so what made you want to move to Minnesota?” At this point when I am asked that question I simply want to just effin scream in the “natives” face. I am seemingly a constant guinea pig for showing the people here what they are like because I am regarded as some type of expert on people due to being an outsider. Trying to be any type of individualistic here is downright blasphemy to the cult like mentality of the niceness and if you are not connected to the niceness you might as well just leave sooner than later. I have even heard some elderly guys talking about how if you’re not from here and you can’t pick it up right away you might as well just not even try. This place will chirp and cherry pick a guy until his arms fall off if you want a synopsis. The people here will simply not listen to any complaint you have about the place because if you are complaining “you just don’t get it.” There are about a thousand different interchangeable euphemisms for the self righteousness to remain perpetual and if you are not aware of all of them you might as well just “quit while you’re ahead.” When it comes to microaggressions if that is what you are looking for you are in the right state. Due to being an “outsider” I have found that “outsider” is not even the right way of going about explaining my situation it’s more like “oh i’m just not from here.” And when I continue on to try and explain what went wrong I am met by all sorts of passive aggressiveness by people who are just “showing me what it’s like.” I guess you could say I am “sick and tired, of being sick and tired?” Or more just tired of people who are petrified of somebody not from their state showing them “what it’s like.” It is a self righteous cult like mentality and I am “sorry you feel that way Minnesota” but I don’t start fights, I finish them, and you guys have a problem with that I think it’s “safe to say” that all of your euphemisms only display an outright reflection of who you are as people and how all of the people who have always been unhappy over their course of time being here due to being an “outsider” can walk the streets somewhere else as a walking shining example that your “principles” are not all that they are cracked up to be. I admire you for writing this article and I think you should continue to cast a light on the self righteous passive aggressiveness that I have become so accustomed to along my time in MINNESOTA.

    • Zach, I’m a NYer, ( pretty much ), and I feel EXACTLY the same way <3 *Are you anywhere near Breckenridge, MN? If you are, I would love to meet you for a coffee/tea. ( My treat! ) There are days where I would give anything to have a "rewind button" :-< We made a terrible mistake moving here, but it would help so much to find someone else who felt the same way. Sometimes, I feel like I've been dropped off on some kind of hostile, alien planet 😐 I put on my best brave "can-do face", and try to make a "proper go of it", but most days, I just feel like I am dying a bit inside.

  43. I just wanted to say thank you to the author of this piece ;-[

    To the people that say “move if you don’t like it”…. Well, it’s not that simple. I’d give anything to be able to move, but the company paid for our relocation out here, and we are now bound by a contract, and ethics. ( Yes, like a lot of other transplants, we both feel “snookered” a bit, and would give anything to go back in time, and make another decision. ) In addition to this, we now have a home here, and the job does pay quite well. Also, we are older, and our bodies, hearts, and minds don’t take the relos like they used to. Again, it’s just not that simple; I wish it was.

    Anyhow, I just wanted to say thank you to Ms. Plaid for such an honest, and well-written piece. Also, thank you to everyone who wrote in with similar experiences. Thank you for defining “Minnesota nice” – something so ephemeral that it almost floats in the atmosphere, like some kind of airborne virus. ( Like something you can neither see, nor touch, but yet you know it is there, and it makes you feel awful? ) And by the way – thank you all for making me feel a little less crazy, and a little less alone <3

    PS : If there are any other transplants on here, living an hour or less, from Breckenridge, MN. Please feel free to shoot me an email at aspiegurl@gmail.com. ( We are in our late 40's, open-minded, liberal, and would love to meet someone else from "away" – LOL! )

  44. I feel obliged to mention that the key flaw in every racial reform movement from the abolitionists to the Black Lives Matter crowd of today is that however right their views may be, they never seem to take social and psychological phenomena like Minnesota Nice into consideration, using the same tactics now that were employed against slavery; by constantly pushing for new laws, always informed by that simple, shallow morality which assumes that once people are ordered to think or behave in a particular way, they shall think and behave as ordered, these well intended idealists fail to address old, deeply ingrained habits, which will not break, even if one’s opinion is actually changed.

    I like to compare racism to stuttering, since ordering a small child to stop stuttering ensures that he (or she) shall carry the impediment into adulthood, despite every effort to stop. Namely, ordering a child to stop stuttering (this works with many other bad habits, too) will only worsen the problem.

    One can also compare civil rights tactics to dealing with a teenager. Order the racism to stop now, and people will only resist, sometimes, like Grandpa Eugene, via vocal bigotry, and sometimes via these microaggressions. The end result is, in the best cases, no result at all, or more often, a more deeply entangled issue than before. The real tragedy of it all is how, thanks to such concentration on the morality of it, the triumph of civil rights in the sixties is rendered a sham victory.

    The lesson here is not that we as a society have not been taking enough action to cure racism once and for all. It is that it is not enough to be right about an issue. Real change comes from understanding the subconscious habits of the other person, and working with and around those. Making a scene about how “Black lives matter” is going to improve nothing.

  45. Pingback: Diversity Is Not Enough And, Done Alone, It Can Be Counterproductive | PopularResistance.Org

  46. Pingback: Racism in Minnesota – Site Title

  47. Another small thought: Perhaps the best method of combating Minnesota Nice is playing and beating it at its own passive-aggressive game? Destroy Minnesota Nice by out-Minnesota-Nicing it?

  48. Pingback: A tiny home of one's own: black women embrace the small house movement - The How-To Zone

  49. Even in a non racist sense as an out of state transport white woman I experience micro aggressions like these just for being out of town, or for being a woman. I can only imagine based on my experience and from the few times I’ve witnessed it how frustrating it must be for POC and non citizens. It is good to see reporting on these issues from the voices of POC themselves so that we can do less talking and more listening.

  50. Hey, have you read A Good Time For The Truth? It’s a book about peoples’ experiences with racism in MN. It touches on the Minnesota Nice and how a lot of racism here is more difficult to see because of the way we act. I read parts of it for a course, and I’d like to go back and read the whole thing sometime.
    I’m so heart broken over the recent case. I wanted to believe we were getting better about dealing with these things, but I guess we aren’t making any progress at all.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  51. Pingback: Philando Castile, Justine Damond, and the automatic in-group bias toward women

  52. Pingback: Philando Castile, Justine Damond, and the automatic in-group bias toward women - Top

  53. Pingback: Racism in the Midwest – Adora Myers

  54. I just happened across this “Minnesota Nasty”(paraphrased) from the Huff Post essay written in 2015. The commentary-responses are mostly the same, whether its 1985 or now, 2018. I will be publishing an Anthology of my own essays, scheduled for print in Spring 2020.

    In this collection of 12 essays, I wrote an entire segment devoted to the inauthentic, delusional-smug, appallingly superficial, and “un-realness” that many of us experience around so many native-born, identity-culted, one-dimensional Minnesotans.

    As for this writer, I was a Long Island baby and raised in northern NJ and elsewhere on the northeast coast until I was 33 . I have lived in the TC’s since 1983, having just left graduate school and looking to put down working-living roots. Why here? These were my deepest and most cohesive family roots.

    My father was born in Chicago and raised all over the world. His people were early Americana mover-shaker railroad and construction engineers and he lived on 4 continents before he stopped to get married at 39 and had 4 children in his 40’s. For almost 40 years, f he commuted to his work career in Manhattan from our northern NJ home–45 minutes away. We lived in a small village on a town green. Though we had a car, we walked and biked everywhere or took the commuter train which was central to our transport. We all ate out of our NJ produce gardens…as NJ is still “the Garden State.”

    During World War 11, my parents met at an Officer’s Club dance in northern Virginia when my mother was teaching in that area. My mother was both a Twin City MN and northern WI girl, with deep roots in both.

    My maternal ancestors immigrated to Minneapolis in the early 1840’s, leaving Strassbourg, France, sailing to New Orleans and from there, up the Mississippi River to what was then, The City of St. Anthony in NE Mpls, now the City of Minneapolis. Part of the downstairs front rooms in my great-great grandmother’s dark, drafty, musty Victorian home in NE Mpls. served as the first make-shift town hall for the storage of records and documents—when it was still the City of St. Anthony, and before it became the City of Minneapolis.

    My maternal ancestors arrived with financial means, education, culture and were fluent in French and German. They became pioneer educators at the U of M, my grandmother and her 3 sisters and one brother, all U of M alumni–beginning with my grandmother in 1912.

    Every summer, my 3 sisters and I eagerly took the two-day train ride from Penn Station in NYC out to see our grandmother, aunt, uncle, great uncle and great aunts in Minneapolis. We would spend most of the entire summer here, and in northern WI on Lake Superior, and would come often at Christmas, as well.

    Prior to the mid-1980’s, I don’t remember experiencing the TC’s or Minnesota in general as becoming this closed, socially hostile, zenophobic, artificially smug, and worst of all, the most ludicrously shallow of any peoples I had ever encountered. How can this (not) be? All this cultural diversity and opportunity with all the top notch TC universities? My people were not like this!

    My now 44 yr. old niece was born and raised in the greater TC’s and left with her family at 16 for her father’s new work in western upstate NY. When I asked if she missed MN, she reacted with bewildered consternation: “NO, never.” Why, I asked. “Auntie, the people there are just NOT REAL and never will be.”

    Over my decades here, I would look and listen for open, reflective, spontaneous, intellectual, cultural, impassioned and just plain lively encounters and “real” conversations. They were there in my ancestor’s time, but now they have been long gone!

    Apart from my now almost 200 yr. old maternal ancestral roots and history, what kept me here was a myriad of private and professional reasons. It is worth noting that all authentic in-depth, multi-dimensional encounters or lasting friendships that developed here were never with locally entrenched, closed, smug, one-dimensional Minnesotans. As the old City Pages featured back in the early 1990’s, “You’ll love Minnesota. Bring your own friends!”

    Now consider this: these would be the very first folks who would help you out in a pinch or in an emergency…and God love them for this socially-engineered and community/church-mandated good will.

    However, once you’ve been helped, never mistake these acts for a budding friendship or any connection of depth, or shared development of human pathos. In my 35 yrs of MN experience, I learned NOT to socialize, share myself, confide, or entrust myself to these same people who felt obligated to help me. If the scenario were reversed, I would feel some kind of human connection afterward and welcome a growing affinity toward friendship.

    Don’t be mistaken as this is NOT mutual with the average native MN. This act of the mercy is the end of their road. You will never be considered or engaged as part of their own teeny tribe or closed clan. And who on earth would want to be part of this?! Thankfully, somewhere in this myopically closed, rigid and suspiciously oppressive scheme of THEIR tribes and clans, you and I, have been warned and perpetually spared!

    The most bewildering part is that these same people are the last to know how “others” experience them this way. By “others”, I mean: whoever/whatever does not look, sound, act or posture just like themselves.

    As a Doctorate in Psychological Counseling practitioner, I came to experience that they just don’t have the psychic-emotional-spiritual-intellectual capacity to even resonate, let alone relate, with what I just said here! It is rather, “how they are NOT experienced!”

    This is Minnesota, the Fargo movie folks: socially-emotionally inept, non-relational misfits…that figured out how to hide and glorify themselves behind a wall of politically correct cliches when they migrated up/down off the farms from the hinterlands to the TC’s for higher education and jobs…beginning in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

    Garrison Keilor described them and himself best in his very funny too true quip: “when the economic times were booming, these Fargo misfits left the real true to life struggling farms to get a degree and become yuppie-puppies in mid-management people jobs that they had no business being in as they don’t know how to communicate, talk or work with other people…and on the weekends, with their first coffee lattes in hand, they slumped themselves into super-trendy hair salon chairs demanding a $92.00 haircut on their $.29 cent heads! Can we all hear the journey from the real to the unreal here?

    I’ve always known that the vast majority of these MN hinterland-outback transplants did not have the evolved DNA social skills to enjoy what most vibrantly cultural cities have to offer. They had plenty to offer if they had just remained themselves but they forsook it all for the shallow trendy emptiness of a place that was not them, or of them. In short, theirs was a bad, “nasty” skin graft…and the closed, zenophobic, fearful, hostile, anti-social attitude morphed from here..and continues to morph.

    Who knows this script better than a once-brilliant and now defunct Garrison Keilor…of which most of his Prairie Home Companion stories are based upon: real vs. unreal, nice vs. nasty, (he’s the later), anti-social vs. genuinely relational, (he’s the former), multi-dimensional vs. superficially shallow, (he’s the contradictory former)…which is the real reason why so many overly-identified Minnesotans (and many others from elsewhere) glommed unto him in such droves and hordes…resonating with humanity’s own honest nastiness.

    All of this is to say that I am now most re-invigorated with reading the Huff Post’s MN Nice is really MN Nasty essay…and re-writing my own…before galley publication time.

    The nicest and most consistently experienced thing that I can say about native Minnesotans, (beside the character, contributions and compassion of my own maternal ancestors here) is this: if you give them clear, unmistakable clues to leave you alone, “they’ll leave you alone!”

    Thanks for allowing me this space and time to share what many already know here, or maybe don’t, or why this is so? Say it isn’t so…MC in Golden Valley

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