Many of those who keep track of these sorts of stories, and many more who rarely do, are aware that Minneapolis City Council Member Alondra Cano has been embroiled in a minor scandal. After attending a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America, Cano tweeted out the names and addresses of critics who wrote her, each calling for her resignation. Among countless others, the Star Tribune Editorial Board (“Exposing council critics crosses line,” Dec. 30) condemned Cano’s actions as well.
The vitriol and mudslinging around Cano’s “doxing” — the practice of using the Internet to publicize personal information like home and e-mail addresses and cellphone numbers — have shown little sign of abating, and whether or not you agree with her actions, the amount of news coverage they have received is illustrative of something everyone in Minneapolis who truly cares about social justice must confront.
During a Dec. 30 morning interview with Minnesota Public Radio, an interviewer asked Cano if she felt her actions put people in “harm’s way.” I’d argue that this seemingly off-handed question is the key to many of our problems in the city and that we’d find much use in the coming year to reflect upon its true complexity.
This notion of “people in harm’s way” is exactly what the media should be focusing on. As a resident of the Ninth Ward, I’d argue that it is, in large part, why we elected Cano as our ward’s representative. In all matters, people in “harm’s way” should concern us. The only problem with the interviewer’s question, and with the continuing firestorm around Cano’s tweets, is that the “people in harm’s way” that the media is focusing on are the wrong people, or at least the ones with the least to worry about.
In a mere few weeks here in Minneapolis, in my assessment of events, an unarmed man has been fatally shot in the head by police; five people were shot by attackers whom many people, including me, as well as the police, knew would be coming due to online threats; to a lesser, though no less ominous, degree, an associate of mine who lives in north Minneapolis was told on Facebook that the commenter hoped she was the recipient of the city’s “next incident”; Council Member Barb Johnson lamented that “real people” were being inconvenienced by the Fourth Precinct station occupation, and last, in response to Cano’s tweets, one person, among hundreds of other vile comments, wrote on Twitter (in a post that has since been deleted) of the “ … hope [that] a nigger rapes you so you can see what the blacks are really like.” These are merely a short and varied sampling off the top of my head.
Add to the mix the astounding rate of unemployment for black men and women in Minneapolis (35 percent), not to mention their treatment by the police each and every day, and you begin to paint a picture of harm far different from what Cano’s MPR interviewer asked about.
At what point is the media truly concerned about “harm” to fellow Minneapolitans? What the uproar over Cano’s tweets makes plain is that concern is raised, and made startlingly evident, when it hits home and presumably white, liberal Minneapolitans are perceived as vulnerable.
Recent studies have shown that there is a “direct correlation with geographic proximity, social network connection and personal experiences.” This is something we all know quite well: Proximity breeds empathy, and we live in a city divided.
The scandal that Cano, the City Council and local media are sorting through at the moment is not about Cano’s ethics or whether Cano put her critics in “harm’s way.” The real scandal, the one that has been going on for decades and will continue to grow until it explodes, revolves around who, as a city, we truly value. All of the news coverage around this minor incident speaks loudly. We value those who might feel discomfort over those experiencing imminent threats to their safety. We can argue the reasons why, but the story is written out daily across Minneapolis. When business as usual is threatened, even liberal, white Minneapolis comes running to the rescue.
Mayor Betsy Hodges speaks of “One Minneapolis,” but time and again her actions and the actions of many on the City Council — as well as the countless “liberal” nonprofit organizations and power brokers like the Itasca Group — have shown that rhetoric is enough when it comes to social justice. A “glass curtain” divides the “One Minneapolis” that Hodges and the liberal elite in the city speak of. Until it shatters, nothing will change, and it will block us from experiencing what true harm really feels like.
Sam Gould is a Minneapolis-based artist. He facilitates the neighborhood publication space Beyond Repair in the city’s Ninth Ward.