Apparently having nothing else to do, Republicans have now proposed that the state take over historical sites that have been managed by the Minnesota Historical Society for decades ("Historic sites could change hands," front page, June 7). Why? According to state Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, it's because the Historical Society shouldn't be embroiled in "a huge amount of controversy"; it should just be "keeping track of our history." Like court stenographers, I guess. Though they throw out the buzzword of "transparency," it's crystal clear that the Republicans' actual goal is to take control of the narrative of history — a key tactic of authoritarians the world over. It's obvious that their main beef is the Historical Society's sincere efforts to broaden the scope of Minnesota history, including more stories, more complexity, more depth. Since we just passed the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, mention of which is suppressed by the Chinese Communist Party, I can't help but notice the similarity between Kiffmeyer's position and that of Chinese leaders: They understand that history cannot be left to historians — it must be molded to fit the needs of power. Minnesotans, I dearly hope, will not let it happen here.
Stephen Bubul, Minneapolis
Wow. Now Kiffmeyer wants to manage the state's historical sites. Legislators have their hands full with regular state business and can't get that done on time. Let's not overwork these poor souls with one more item to concern themselves with. I think the historical sites are well managed as they are. Let's keep it that way.
Linda Kay Foster, Minneapolis
"Historic sites could change hands" read more like a mystery than news. Senate Republican Kiffmeyer proposing to increase the size of government? Taking back control of state-owned sites the Historical Society has managed for more than 50 years? Kiffmeyer's rationale: more transparency, less controversy, keeping track of our history?
Haven't read about any such problems.
Republicans want a state staff of 13 to replace the Historical Society staff of 300. Department of Administration Commissioner Alice Roberts-Davis says that small group is not capable of managing the sites.
Aha! Near the end of the article we read that in 2019 Kiffmeyer proposed removing $4 million from the Historical Society budget because it put a Dakota word on a sign at Fort Snelling.
Republicans don't want control of the historical sites, they want control of history.
Bruce C. Kelley, Minneapolis
Good governance, not malice
Who knew the level of deceit behind the St. Paul mayor's veto of a vote against a housing development? Thanks to the St. Paul Strong group ("Politics trumps proper process in St. Paul," Opinion Exchange, May 28) we now know that Melvin Carter would cast aside his longtime support for affordable housing and inclusive neighborhoods and run roughshod over state law and community decisionmaking, all for the sake of scoring additional votes in his upcoming election, one not believed competitive. Shades of Richard Nixon? Until I read the Strong group's column, I thought Carter's support for the Alatus development was due to it adding of 288 housing units near a light rail stop, nearly half with modest affordability commitments, creating construction jobs and adding to the city's tax base, while not demolishing any existing housing or commercial properties, all without city subsidy. Good to be re-educated.
Chip Halbach, Minneapolis
Progress, but still a long way to go
A letter writer on Saturday stated that "by any reasonable definition, we are a country largely free of racial animus" ("It's OK to admit progress"). How much I wish that it were so. If it were, we would have many fewer incarcerated Black people, and Black people would not have to be fearful of the police and subject to pretext stops more than white people. Black people would be able to go to stores and wander freely in them without being followed by store employees who suspect them of stealing. If we were truly free of racial animus, the income, housing and educational disparities between white and Black people would be nonexistent.
As a white man I have never been subjected to these racially biased policies. It is easy not to see them if I don't look, read and listen to Black people, their experiences and "the content of their character."
White privilege and hundreds of years of seeing Black people as less-than has been as powerful as the knee of Derek Chauvin on George Floyd's neck. Isn't it time to take our proverbial knee off Black people to start healing and build a truly just society of brothers and sisters? Then we'll be better able to judge the content of our character.
Charles Greenman, Minnetonka
The letter "It's OK to admit progress" absolutely stunned me. I agree with the message conveyed in the letter's title. There has been "remarkable progress … made in the sphere of race relations." To say otherwise would be denying reality. But the following sentence in the middle of the second paragraph — "Yet, by any reasonable definition, we are a country largely free of racial animus" — is absurd and needs to be bluntly addressed.
Many publicly available statistics paint a picture of systemic racial bias in the United States, a concept the writer denies later in his letter. Using 2019 data (to avoid distortions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic), two examples are:
• According to a Fed Notes Report ("Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity," Sept. 28, 2020), the 2019 median wealth for white families was $188,200; for Black families, $24,100.
• According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics ("Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity," December 2020), the 2019 joblessness rate for white Americans was 3.3%; for Black Americans, 6.1%
How do we explain these and the many other similar disparities? It certainly isn't because Black families and workers aren't interested in achieving results similar to their white brothers and sisters. Yes, we should celebrate all of our progress wherever it occurs. But, there is an immense amount of progress yet to be achieved. Let's wake up to reality!
Norman Chervany, New Brighton
A recent letter writer offers a defense of America's progress on racial equity (with a hefty dollop of white grievance thrown in). Like many others have done, he cites the election and re-election of President Barack Obama as an indicator of American enlightenment.
The fact is that in neither 2008 nor 2012 did Obama win a majority of the white vote. In fact, he got a lower percent of the white vote in 2012 than in 2008, even after a scandal-free first term in which he dug the economy out of a ditch, extended health care to millions and took down Osama bin Laden.
The letter writer also points to strong Black turnout in the 2018 and 2020 elections, but fails to mention the resulting backlash, which has been swift and severe. So far this year, more than a dozen states from Georgia to Arizona have enacted new restrictions on voting, and many other states are considering such measures. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, "The United States is on track to far exceed its most recent period of significant voter suppression — 2011." And because of the 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act, these pushes will largely succeed.
It's true that America has taken many steps forward over the years. Unfortunately, each step forward has too often been followed by at least one step back.
Anne Hamre, Roseville