I believe the Star Tribune Editorial Board’s endorsement of incumbent Peter McLaughlin over challenger Angela Conley for the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners (“Value experience in county races,” Oct. 24) is not only wrong for our changing county, but symbolic of why our nation is in peril. Before I unpack this, let me tell you about my work and the work of our beloved community.
I am an educator and community organizer in south Minneapolis. Some common lessons I teach children and adults, lessons taught to me by my beloved community, focus on how we treat one another.
How do we take care of one another? And, when we cannot, how do we surround ourselves with people who are taking care of us, so we can get back to caring for others?
As a man, I have blinders and cannot always see how I mistreat women. I was taught that by great women in my life. My goal now is not only to stop mistreating women, but to figure out how I, as a man, can use my power to lift up women who I have been programmed to hurt.
As a black man, how do I use my “inside status” as a man to open up the door for black women? As a white man, how do I use my inside status as a man to open up the door for white women?
As a white woman, how do I use my inside status as a white person to open the door for all other women?
As a woman and citizen, how do I open up the door for immigrant women?
As a documented immigrant, how do I open up the door for my undocumented immigrant neighbors who I love and whose children play with mine?
And so on and so forth.
By no means am I an expert at self-accountability. I have spent most of my adult life trying to hold white people accountable for their racism, while trying to avoid accountability for my own sexism and heterosexism. Today I understand that those same people I tried to avoid are the exact ones I need to sit with. Angela understands this because of the community she comes from.
I support Angela Conley because she has self-accountability that steers her moral compass in a way we rarely see. I support Angela because she knows she too has blinders, and she surrounds herself with people who will hold her accountable, with love. There are very few elected officials serving our communities today who can say they do this and they do it well.
Our entire society was built upon unchecked white-male power. While Trump tries to convince his base that communities of color are the ones who lack accountability, who in his community is holding him accountable? We can see how dangerous unchecked power is. But it did not start with Trump. Our government was set up that way. Look no further than Hennepin County.
In its 167-year history it has never had an indigenous person or a person of color, let alone a woman of color, serve on its board. Peter McLaughlin, a 27-year incumbent, is currently holding public “Get to know Peter” gatherings in our district, in an election year.
Does anyone else find that suspicious? He was not hosting these gatherings last year. And dare I say, he would not be having them now if not for Angela.
It is becoming increasingly clear to everyone why Hennepin County has awful racial inequalities. It doesn’t mean Peter is a bad person. It does mean that no one from our communities can effectively hold him, a 70-year-old white man who has been in this seat for 27 years, accountable. This informs us where to begin to correct this: At the seat of government itself.
We stand with Angela in building the big tent of accountability, starting in our beloved community. This is the urgency of this election. The change we need starts by voting for change that Angela Conley would bring to our county government. One Minneapolis can only be achieved when everyone’s voice is at the table.
Marjaan Sirdar, of Minneapolis, is an educator and community organizer. This commentary was co-signed by 99 additional Hennepin County residents.