I just watched the video of the Isabella Brown “arrest” (“NAACP calls for boycott of MOA,” Jan. 1). I counted eight security guards, four of whom were holding down and apparently cuffing a screaming little girl, while the others formed a wall to prevent any citizens from approaching. These were not police officers; they are essentially uniformed bouncers dealing out a punishment that enormously outweighed any offense committed. A punishment dealt out on the spot without the inconvenience of charge, arrest, courts or convictions. Many times, in the kind of public/private space such as the Mall of America, I’ve seen minor trespassing issues dealt with calmly and quietly by a single security guard escorting an offender off the premises. These eight men and women behaved as if they were taking down an armed assailant, not a little girl looking for change to take a bus. They should be thoroughly ashamed of their actions. The mall should be thoroughly ashamed of what it is calling “highly trained” security guards, and it needs to take a serious look at its rule enforcement methods. Until that poor child and her family receive a profound apology and see some changes, I shall be joining the NAACP boycott of the mall. I am white, not that it should matter. I hope it didn’t make a difference to the mall.

Jonathan Pinkerton, Minneapolis

ALONDRA CANO

Her strong support of BLM is consistent with her ward

In response to letters published Jan. 2, I believe that Minneapolis City Council Member and Democrat Alondra Cano should apologize for publicly tweeting addresses and condoning some of the beliefs and actions of the group Black Lives Matter (BLM). However, here is an important fact. Her main challenger in the 2013 election in the Ninth Ward was Ty Moore, who ran under the Socialist Alternative banner and was endorsed by the Green Party; Cano defeated him 48 percent to 42 percent. Moore also supports BLM and has made remarks in a public online opinion piece including calling the Minneapolis Police Department “racist.” The point? South Minneapolis is well-known to be a very leftist area, and the results show (given the views of her opponent) that Cano has the right to support Black Lives Matter. Say what you will about her, but regional/local politics and viewpoints do matter, and after reading Moore’s remarks, I do think Cano is doing a much better job than Moore would.

William Cory Labovitch, South St. Paul

• • •

To the Jan. 2 letter writers and anyone else who decides to be upset about Cano’s tweets, you are actively part of the problem. Attempting to derail the focus on the killing of Jamar Clark to your perceived slight is racist. It is racist because it gives everyone an excuse to stop talking about Clark. Don’t give excuses that you’re actually liberal and then criticize one of the few elected officials supporting Black Lives Matter. Cano’s tweets aren’t a threat to democracy: the police killing black people is a threat to democracy. If you care about justice for Jamar Clark, don’t make this about how you feel about a tweet. Get in the streets.

Luke Mielke, St. Paul

 

MUSLIM PRAYER BREAKS

Firings seem to reflect corporate priorities (which aren’t people)

The Jan. 1 story about Muslim workers fired from a Cargill plant in Colorado (“Prayer protest ends in firings”) provided a good illustration of a concept that is frequently mentioned but not always clear: “Institutional racism” has to do with deeply rooted assumptions about how things are done that result in oppressing a racial group without the overt intention of doing so.

The story about Muslim firings quotes a Cargill spokesman as saying “What our people look at as trying to accommodate employees and keep the [production] lines running is being interpreted by some employees as inflexibility.” Clearly, “our people” refers to the ones making the decisions and does not include the Muslim employees of the company. How are the people actually doing the work of production not also “our people?” Accommodation for prayer “is not guaranteed every day” and depends on factors such as “production schedules and staffing levels.” The employees are not Muslim only on days when it is convenient for nonhuman abstractions like these. They are people with a commitment to practice their religion, people whose lives matter.

Many institutions have to adjust their hiring to cover temporary worker absences: float nurses, substitute teachers, assembly-line break workers. What’s required is to recognize the personhood of the workers, whereas the way they are referred to here sees them only as functions subject to market fluctuations. I was struck by the description of tensions between shop floor supervisors and Somali workers over prayer breaks. Why are these groups racially separated? Why aren’t some of the Somali workers promoted to supervisors who would understand the workers’ priorities?

The practices described here are often defended by pointing to the company’s bottom line. I propose a different bottom line: personhood, not profits.

Helen Gilbert, Minneapolis

• • •

It doesn’t take any research to see that our world is in dire straits and that those who could do something about it mostly wrangle. So how could prayer, or the willingness to do it regularly, hurt enough to get some people fired? I suppose that’s corporate America for you, but not all of us are sold on that state of affairs, either. Prayer might even help us get our priorities straight, wouldn’t you think? I might start praying for that, since I’m 90 years old and have nothing to fear except losing my Social Security, I suppose.

Jo Youngren, St. Anthony

 

OREGON STANDOFF

Imagine how we’d discuss this if it were an overseas enemy

The Jan. 4 coverage by the Associated Press of the armed takeover of a national wildlife center by Ammon Bundy and a group of his associates used very carefully selected language to describe the event and the people involved. The most straightforward description was the quote from the local sheriff who described them as “part of militia groups.”

Had this event occurred in Afghanistan or Iraq, we would be reading descriptions of “warlords” (Bundy) with “armed insurgents” (his friends) taking over a “government facility” (wildlife refuge) because the weak national forces (nonexistent troops) were unable to control “territory.”

Why does this matter? Because we have a history of tolerating right-wing extremists as they intimidate residents, bully officials and destroy public property in the name of “freedom.” If we will spend billions of dollars of public money to try and stop this behavior halfway around the world, why do we allow homegrown terrorists to get away with it right here?

George Hutchinson, Minneapolis

 

GOPHERS FOOTBALL

No shame in bowl bid

In response to the Jan. 2 letter “Um, congratulations, I guess”: I’m tired of hearing how miserable people around the state feel because the Gophers had the audacity to accept a bowl bid. It isn’t the Gophers’ fault that there are too many bowl games. (Regarding the letter writer’s reference to Missouri: That team turned down its bowl invitation because its coach resigned and it had not named a successor.)

Here’s a simple solution for those who don’t like all of the bowl games: Don’t watch them! I happen to love college football and enjoy watching as many of the bowl games as possible. And, by the way, congratulations, Gophers!

Rob Marx, Maple Grove