When white families avoid talking about race, families of color shoulder the burden of respectability

The first thing I was taught about race was that it didn’t matter. Like so many others I was taught to ignore the color of a person’s skin and to judge people on the “content of their character.” This was the extent of my racial formation. This color-ignorance became the dominant approach after the Civil Rights movement, and has only gained steam in the supposedly post-racial world the election of Barack Obama ushered in. The problem with color-ignorance is that it erases the reality of racism and leaves white folks incapable of understanding the experiences of people of color, and therefore incapable of contributing to justice in meaningful ways. Nothing illustrates this inability better than the phenomenon of respectability and what it signifies depending on your race. Continue Reading

Black Fair - White Privilege

“Minnesota Nice” and Minnesota’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. In other words, it’s not nice at all. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum: Not sexist, not Minnesota Nice either

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in the One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum that was held at Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis. The Forum was designed to carve out a unique space in which candidates for the Minneapolis Mayoral race would be called upon to bring forth specific solutions to address the growing racial disparities in the City. Unlike traditional political forums, the One Minneapolis Forum was organized by youth workers who are routinely forced to confront the harsh realities of poverty, homelessness, and unemployment through the eyes of the young people they serve. In addition to a specific focus on socio-economic disparities, the Forum organizers sought to ensure that racial disparities would for once be front and center in a major mayoral debate, as opposed to a peripheral issue, as is often the case in such forums. For a video replay, see http://www.theuptake.org/2013/06/06/minneapolis-mayoral-candidates-address-race-issues/.The Forum was Not “Business as Usual”The Forum attracted hundreds of young voters, concerned citizens, seasoned freedom fighters, and a large number of residents from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The energy in the overflowing auditorium was electrifying and signaled the desire for an end to a “business as usual” paradigm in political forums and ushered in the possibility of a new form of citizen engagement in political arenas.The organizers of the event decided that the forum would be highly structured in some respects and free-flowing in other respects to allow for audience participation and feedback. Continue Reading