In "Leftward, whoa!" (July 23), Steve Cramer analyzed current political realities in Minneapolis. I would summarize his view as challenging the prudence of allowing a small group of people with outsized influence to take control of the political process and pull candidates toward a vision that is far (left) of the mainstream.
Now, if we are honest, the idea of a small group of people having outsized influence in Minneapolis is a story as old as time. One person's small group of activists with outsized influence might be someone else's small group of CEOs, or real estate developers, with outsized influence.
The difference today is that the small group of people with influence is younger, browner and demanding much more from our city.
So, to be clear, the problem isn't the idea of a small group of people with influence; rather, it is who the group is and what the group is asking of its political leaders. Which leads exactly to the second problem, as defined by Cramer: that this group of activists is pushing us left of some agreed-upon mainstream notion of what it takes to become a more fair and just city.
I would imagine that this group of activists and the membership of the Downtown Council would have wildly different answers to these questions:
1) What is wrong?
2) Who is responsible for it?
Perspective matters here. One person's mainstream is another person's status quo.
One person's crazy idea is another person's common-sense solution.
Listen, I can understand how the idea of defunding the Police Department sounds silly when your experience with police has always been positive and helpful. I can maybe also see how the idea of raising the minimum wage might not make sense when you're easily able to afford paying more than 30 percent of your income for rent or a mortgage and still have plenty of money left over for life's other necessities.
Unfortunately, these experiences are not the same as the experiences in so many of our communities of color, indigenous people and low-wealth persons in Minneapolis. So I can also see how the ideas of radical police reform and raising the minimum wage make a lot of sense to my neighbors in north Minneapolis.
For some, the work in front of us is simply to lessen the burdens of those who are currently disadvantaged, integrating them into the existing system rather than fundamentally reforming the system itself. The kind of approaches Cramer outlines in his article allow the basic structures of injustice to remain, as we accept the world as it is, doing our best to make it a little bit better. It does nothing to disrupt and transform the root causes of inequality in our city.
At the same time, having worked with Cramer at Project for Pride in Living, I support his suggestion that we need to better invest in the human capital of all of our citizens, especially our communities of color and indigenous people, through the types of workforce partnerships Cramer spearheaded while at PPL.
But as good as these approaches have been shown to be, they have never been enough.
Narrowly focusing on fighting inequality in this way might seem progressive. But it can also be seen as a strategy to quiet the grievances of those most distressed while preserving a stratified social order that is still marred by serious injustices, illegitimate privileges and ill-gotten gains.
This, I would argue, is our blind spot as a city.
Rather than promoting approaches where features of our society that could be altered get little scrutiny, we should be looking to identify and transform basic structures of injustice that allow so many of our racial and economic inequalities to be both predictable and persistent.
Advancing a truly fair, just and inclusive city will require something from all of us — government, business and each of us as citizens. Trickle-down equity won't get us there. Neoliberal approaches to governance won't get us there. Ignoring centuries of policies and practices that favored the well-being of white people over everyone else won't get us there. Blaming a small group of people for being powerful won't get us there.
Instead, it will take all of us, working together, challenging mainstream notions of justice while developing more imaginative solutions than we have ever tried before.
Neeraj Mehta, of north Minneapolis, is director of community programs at the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota.