It's one full year after George Floyd's death and not nearly enough has changed. Racism is systemic but need not lead to violence and death. Raise expectations: that our employed police force will set an example of public service, transparency and discipline worth of the trust we place in them. Bullies out; dispassionate, creative leaders in.
Mary K. Lund, Minnetonka
Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of when the world woke from its latest hit of the snooze button. Most of us do it — hit "snooze" on our alarm multiple times in the morning, only to, after several brief rests, determine it is finally time to fully awaken.
Our nation experienced the emancipation of Black slaves in 1863, the ability of Black men (not women yet) to vote in 1870, the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination based on race in 1964 and the beating of Rodney King by police while the world watched in the 1990s. There have been these and many other events, often tragic, that were intended to wake us up, yet we hit the collective snooze button on progress. Rather than embrace ongoing and progressive change, we chose to fall back to sleep, just for a little while longer. We didn't want to face the day — the day that requires us to change. If we just closed our eyes for a few more moments, we could enjoy the extended, brief slumber.
The murder of George Floyd serves as another opportunity for us to wake up. To embrace the needed change of the systemic inequalities that have existed for generations. To acknowledge that it is hard work and takes time, yet it is work that is worthwhile, because every person is worthwhile.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Let's get together and agree that the work of antiracism is work we will do, so we will go together and farther.
Richard Bahr, Maple Grove
As a 70-year-old white male born in St. Paul and raised in suburban Ramsey County, many might expect me to reject the concepts of systemic racism, white privilege and white fragility. In truth, I began to learn them at the age of 14. Obviously, I did not use those terms or grasp their depth and complexity in their entirety at that age or even now. I am, however, learning more each day.
Whether it was the juvenile justice system, the Mechanic Arts High School night program, the job market, college or any number of other arenas it soon became obvious to me that I had been sold a bill of goods about the American experience. I learned that the aspirational language of the Declaration of Independence, that we hold certain truths to be self-evident and are endowed with certain inalienable rights, did not extend to all of us. For many, it was no more than a humiliating lie they were required to not only swallow but at times to recite or even sing.
Our history, which I study to this day, lays bare the truth if we only move beyond the red, white, and blue narrative and open our eyes to the pervasive wrongs of the past, present and possibly our future. My horizons were broadened by many events over many decades, not the least of which was becoming the father of a boy, now a man, of color. We are never too old to learn. All that is required is that we be willing.
James M. Hamilton, St. Paul
VIOLENCE IN MINNEAPOLIS
Systemic racism is to blame, though
I must disagree with the May 25 letter writer's statement that "systemic racism is not what's getting Black children shot in the head in Minneapolis. Unfettered violent crime is what's killing children in Minneapolis." Systemic racism is both directly and indirectly responsible for the crime rate in historically Black neighborhoods: from Jim Crow laws to white legislators passing laws that discriminate against people of color; from redlining and racial covenants that forced people of color into poor crowded neighborhoods to poorer-quality schools for children of color; from slanting G.I. Bill rights toward white veterans to unwarranted traffic stops of people of color. White people have for hundreds of years trampled on rights and opportunities that would have lifted Black people out of poverty and allowed them to prosper. In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill said, "Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it." I suggest that this continues to happen today with our ignoring of what has been done to Black citizens throughout history, contributing directly to high crime and racially isolated communities.
Carol Henderson, Minneapolis
I disagree with Minneapolis City Council Member Steve Fletcher's latest newsletter update that states that "many of our communities have been over-policed and underprotected." We are down over 200 police officers because of the stupidity of the City Council and their calls for defunding the police. This is in addition to the problems created by George Floyd's murder, with the city on fire and the massive number of guns on the street.
Yes, some changes can and must be made, but not the way Fletcher and the City Council are going about it. I am 85 years old and have lived in Minneapolis and its suburbs for most of my life, and I have never seen such incompetence in a governing organization. Get your heads together and do right for the city instead of for your re-election.
John F. Madden, Minneapolis
A girl jumping on a trampoline at a birthday party. Shot.
Hot-rodders taking over our streets. Bystander struck last summer.
A 6-year-old on the way home from McDonald's. Shot and killed.
A college senior celebrating with his friends the night before his graduation ceremony. Shot and killed.
Colleen Kepler, Minneapolis
If we must, why not all?
When I signed up to volunteer at a major health provider, I was expected to have vaccinations up-to-date and to accept the flu vaccine offered every year. We even received tags to add to our name badges to proudly display to patients and staff that we had been vaccinated each fall.
If I as an unpaid volunteer am expected to follow vaccine protocol, why not such a mandate for paid professional staff in congregate care facilities?
Why doesn't the state make up-to-date vaccinations of staff — especially the COVID-19 vaccine — a part of license requirements for these facilities? If not the state, the facilities could make an agreement among themselves not to tolerate COVID-19 vaccine refusal. The employees' resistance and likelihood of jumping ship would soon dissipate if there were no employers that allowed workers to remain without vaccination.
Allowing vaccination for health workers to be voluntary diminishes the public's perception of its importance — and makes Minnesota's goal for vaccination less likely.
Roberta Merryman, St. Louis Park
Farewell to one accomplished man
A fond farewell to an amazing Minnesotan: mountain climber, world traveler, prolific author, gifted writer, enormous vocabulary user, recovering alcoholic, nationally acclaimed columnist, pro football reporter and richly talented man who drank deeply of the cup of life ("Journalist Jim Klobuchar laid to rest," May 23). Five years my senior, we crossed paths early and late, both as journalists for a leading international news organization and at a prominent regional newspaper. We first met when Jim Klobuchar stepped between me and Vikings Coach Norm Van Brocklin when he was barking at me after a game. Rest in peace, Jim.
Gene Lahammer, St. Louis Park
The writer is a former member of the Star Tribune Editorial Board.
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