An open letter that appeared in the Star Tribune on June 12 lamented the cancellation of the so-called “Sacred Conversations” that were to be held at the Minneapolis City Hall (“ ‘Sacred Conversations’ should have gone on,” Opinion Exchange). In news articles about these racially segregated meetings, it did not seem that attendance was to be mandatory for elected officials or municipal employees at City Hall. Either way, on whose authority would the determination be made concerning which meeting room an attendee is to report to?
Sixty years ago, Mississippians of African descent were barred under penalty of law (and worse) from entering the Mississippi State Capitol building. Most Americans (rightly) condemn the racial segregation manifest in such a policy. How troubling then, six decades later, that racial segregation should be suggested at Minneapolis City Hall. If I correctly understand the writers of the open letter, this segregation is justified so long as those with the correct political ideology enforce the practice.
If identity politicians wish to engage in their racialist fantasies, that is their First Amendment guarantee. However, neither taxpayer funding nor government property should be at their disposal to indulge in racial segregation.
Robin Lundy, Minneapolis
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I am one of the people who signed the letter that was printed in the Star Tribune encouraging the “Sacred Conversations” that were canceled by the city of Minneapolis. As a white person who has participated in conversations on race, I believe that this was a missed opportunity for surfacing issues in a way that allows for multiple groups to be able to speak to their truth and offers a beginning step in the work of addressing equity in the workplace and our city.
In this day and age, “diversity” is another thing white people often feel entitled to. However, as seekers of diversity, they continue to conduct themselves completely unaware of the fear and trauma of racism and think everyone they encounter should just get along.
I wonder if the critics of having these conversations ever stop to consider the risks that people of color take when they speak their truth or engage with a dominant white culture that devalues many voices. There are plenty of examples of people who have lost their homes, livelihoods and their lives when they do.
From my perspective, using safe spaces with the goal of having productive conversations about race and working together can be very valuable. I was recently at a conference with a people-of-color affinity group, and I believe that it was imperative to support that initiative.
One of my colleagues who had been working for years to create that space had met similar resistance from white people concerned that this was “segregation.” When it finally happened, it had the opposite effect. There were more opportunities than ever to talk and work together.
It seems reasonable to me that people who want to work most effectively together in a workplace would get support and training to do that. Because racism is considered a taboo topic in dominant white culture, the very idea of having these conversations tends to get shut down. Time and again, people have told me that talking about race is divisive and that we should be focused on something else in our city, like fixing potholes.
You may not think racism is your fault, and none of us wanted to inherit this system, but pretending it doesn’t impact our lives or that it doesn’t exist anymore is hubris. I recognize talk is cheap when it comes to social and economic justice, yet the pragmatist in me is convinced conversation and listening is important work, too.
I have been fortunate to have race-based conversations in both racially mixed groups and ones where affinity groups based on color also met, and afterward people reconvened as a whole to share what had been said. People learn from each other if they are open to it.
Patricia Cumbie, Minneapolis
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To the group of writers who passionately argued for black and indigenous people of color (BIPOCs) to have their own space for “Sacred Conversations”: You say, “None of us raised in white bodies can know the formula for dismantling white supremacy.” Wait! Wait! I do know what that formula is. If you are “white bodied,” change your will and your insurance policies so that your beneficiaries will be BIPOCs and not your white offspring. If you own a house, deed it to a BIPOC when you die instead of leaving it to your children.
Stop making ridiculous public statements in support of BIPOCs if these statements cost you nothing, personally. Stop bravely calling for reparations when you know that reparations, if they are ever actually authorized, will be paid for by increasing our country’s public debt and not by taxing individual white families like yours.
judd swanson, Minneapolis
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Oh dear! This old lady has been following the ongoing conversation on “sacred spaces,” whatever that means. I am confused, bemused and, frankly, amused until I read that this is happening on time that is taxpayer-funded! What religion are they advocating, with their use of the word “sacred”? Who, exactly, is “white bodied” and who is “black bodied”? This is a serious question — do we put mixed-race people in only one category? As an “old bodied” person, I would really welcome a public conversation, open to everyone, paid for privately and not during public service work hours. What an interesting world we live in.
Renata Melby, Bloomington
Catholic Church can save souls while preventing abuse of minors
Oh my goodness, what a diatribe from Jennifer Haselberger against the Catholic Church (“The Church can stop abuse; it just won’t,” Opinion Exchange, June 14)! I’m surprised she didn’t suggest closing all the churches — that ought to do it. Yes, there was sexual abuse within the church; yes, victims need to be acknowledged and helped; and yes, the church must be vigilant in ensuring that abuse does not happen again.
The church is addressing the issue and initiating practices that will protect minors and vulnerable adults. No one should suffer abuse at the hands of another.
The church’s “business” of saving souls through evangelizing is not antithetical to protecting children. To suggest that it is, in my opinion, borders on attacking the church and its ability to be relevant in today’s society.
Kathryn Tokar Haidet, New Brighton
Get going before money runs out
Once again, our leadership is heading for another exercise in crisis management with the predicted shortfall in Social Security Trust Fund levels (“Social Security checks on track to fall 20%,” June 14). So, what to do?
I recall a few years ago when I was still working, where my income had increased to the point I didn’t have to pay the Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax for the last few weeks of the year; there was a cap on contributions. In light of the possible shortfall in the trust fund, I see no reason to have a cap on contributions. Those whose income has exceeded that level could certainly afford to continue paying into the fund for the entire year. In fact, the highest-salaried folks could well afford a surcharge above a certain income level (I hear groans from the affluent among us). People with no other source of income in their retirement would be hurt by a 20% cut. But, whatever method is used to keep the fund solvent, our leadership had better start doing something now, keeping in mind whom they are impacting.
Harald Eriksen, Brooklyn Park