St. Cloud panics again


Wouldn’t an honest attack on racism be a healthier response?

By now, most of you are aware of recent racist incidents reported at Macalester College, University of St. Thomas and Hamline University. As we would all assume, St. Cloud (“White Cloud”) always manages to win and successfully defend its reputation as Minnesota’s capital of racism.

St. Cloud State University (SCSU) had a Halloween Black-face party incident; in November, swastikas were found in several places on at least two occasions; and on December 2, a Black teenager was assaulted by swastika-wearing White boys. Black SCSU students complained that an administrative email condemning racist incidents “lacked some decisiveness on the issue” (compared with very specific condemnations by presidents of the three Twin Cities institutions).

Recent FBI statistics cited “White Cloud” as number-one for Minnesota hate crimes. Again, as we would all assume, city hall, the police, the Chamber of Commerce, St. Cloud Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and local politicians all claim to be misunderstood despite the evidence.

Promoting “White Cloud” as a model community requires more imagination than the stories of Edgar Rice Bourroughs’ Tarzan dominating Africa’s bush. Both would get rave reviews at the Comedy Store.

Let’s apply Miranda warnings to denials of racism in “White Cloud”: “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” Once denials fail, double standards are exposed, and facts are revealed, city hall panics.

City hall panicked after the Council on Black Minnesotans (CBM) intervened in 1998. Ask Mayor Larry Meyer and his boy Mike Landy (who said Blacks were powerless to defy racist conditions). City hall panicked two years ago when some 400 mostly Black Katrina survivors from New Orleans were scheduled to arrive at nearby Camp Ripley. City hall feared too many new Blacks (with no stomachs for racism) just might decide to resettle in “White Cloud” and lead an overdue rebellion.

“White Cloud” racism flourished because: (a) racial conditions were less known to outsiders; (b) community Blacks have always been timid; and (c) racists assumed the plantation environment would remain a lower priority for Twin Cities’ militants. Racism, like incest, were cultural preferences.

Ninety-nine percent of all Minnesota slaves were held in “White Cloud” until 1865. The 60 slaves openly violated Minnesota’s constitutional law against “slavery and involuntary servitude.” A few slaves were brought to Minnesota by army officers at Fort Snelling or southern visitors, Dred Scott among them. Most slaves were freed once discovered by abolitionists and authorities, including Eliza Winston.

Beyond accent, climate and geography, “White Cloud’s” racist history more closely resembles Jena, Louisiana, than even Duluth. The legacy of passive victims, secrecy, and unchallenged racism began unraveling in 1991, again in 1998, cathartically in 2002, and catastrophically after CBM hearings last October. Defeating racism requires Black defiance, leadership and solidarity first, then Black political intrusion.

After 153 years of free-range racism, bad publicity is costing the community. Racism is forcing “White Cloud” to eat itself. They’re applying bandages to gaping wounds. Rather than aggressively attacking and destroying racism, Mayor Dave Kleis and city council members frantically inflated their public relations life jackets hoping to survive.

In a sham that easily beats Hadacal’s cure-all claims (Hadacal was a popular 1930s elixir bottled and sold by itinerant hillbillies for curing ailments such as balding, erectile dysfunction, flat feet, obesity, syphilis and tooth decay), an entourage of four Cheshire Cat-grinning liars (“presenters”) spent $10,000 trekking to England for the LivCom world’s “most livable city” competition. According to emails and letters to the St. Cloud Times, even reliable community lackeys laughed.

True to expectations, a couple of Black apologists shamelessly defended their “White Cloud” plantation. Black 1940s movie comics Willie Bess and Stepin Fetchit would be embarrassed.

Since facts about racism were absent in “White Cloud’s” PowerPoint and video presentation to LivCom officials, in the interest of truth, wouldn’t there be “teachable moments” if articles describing community racism (from the hometown newspaper yet) suddenly appeared to a few prospective bioscience companies, community-ranking publications, convention planners, small manufactures and sports tournament organizers?

Rather than clinging to the “don’t look so you won’t find anything” strategy, maybe “White Cloud” leadership will shock us by summoning the collective psychological health to attack racism as a high priority. Why not become a genuine model for change rather than hucksters of propaganda? Ethics, honesty and morality just might benefit everybody concerned.

Myrle Cooper is retired from SCSU but continues to closely monitor racism and expose a community resisting change. He welcomes reader responses to