I’d like to thank Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo for withdrawing from negotiations with police union boss Bob Kroll and to write this letter, actually, to him (“Mpls. pulls back from talks with its police union,” front page, June 11). Thank you for talking as a black man about the need for reform in the department — transformational reform. I am listening. With urgency.
I am not particularly comforted by the idea that officers are telling you former officer Derek Chauvin “isn’t who we are.” That’s nice to say. But it seems it would be more comforting to hear a commitment on the part of any good officers to look at how they are like Chauvin.
Indeed, that is the work a lot of us are doing right now within ourselves. We have collectively allowed this to happen over and over — and no one is more complicit than white people (myself included) who have said, “I am not a racist,” and people within MPD who have done nothing even though they understand intimately the ins and outs of how policing works, its weak points and the biggest roadblocks to change.
Questions for us white folks and for every good officer: Where have we been? Where have you been? I appreciate the chief’s showing up, speaking out and promising justice and accountability. It’s beyond overdue. Arradondo, you must lead this work and insist that your officers do the hard work of introspection.
It’s not enough to say, “I’m not like him.” They are. We are. Start there.
Tonya Tennessen, Minneapolis
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President Donald Trump says that 99% of police are great people. Assume, for a moment, that this is true. Amazon’s Alexa tells me that there are about 900,000 police officers in the United States. This leaves at least 9,000 bad cops across the country waiting to have their own moment of infamy.
Joseph Maddison, Minneapolis
To make change, we must be heard
Can we all take a tiny step back from yelling at each other? Racial injustice is outrageous. It’s unacceptable. Killing of black people at the hands of police cannot continue. The fury is justified right now, and in fact would be justified for another four centuries to make up for what this country has done to people of color. But then what? Eventually, we have to soften, listen and talk. Because the point of all of this isn’t just to get consensus from people who already agree with each other. The goal of achieving racial, social and economic equality has to be a shared goal. There’s a reason we aren’t there yet, and the verbal equivalent of smacking someone till they agree with you isn’t a workable strategy.
It’s not fair that the work has to be this hard. It is absurdly unfair, because it runs counter to the foundational promises of this country. But the civil rights movement of the 1960s showed us that you change more hearts and minds when conduct and behavior are unimpeachably respectful. That extends to dialogue as well. The dialogue around completely reshaping the police force is essential. But we need to engage respectfully with those who don’t share our viewpoints, or all we do is further entrench extreme perceptions on both sides. Is that completely unfair and infuriating? Yeah, because equality should be a no-brainer. But at the moment, it’s not. I don’t challenge anyone’s anger or its legitimacy, but I’ll respectfully ask: Is it better to be scream and be right, or to talk and actually be heard?
Travis Anderson, Minneapolis
That statue gave no history lesson
Some are concerned that removing statues of Christopher Columbus (or Confederate generals) will destroy our history (“Capitol’s Columbus statue toppled,” June 11). I disagree, believing the statues themselves have destroyed history. Let me be specific.
Columbus was not Italian. Italy did not exist — he was born in the Republic of Genoa.
Columbus was a pioneer slave-trader, writing that he captured six peaceful “Indians” as slaves on his very first day in the “New World.” He brought thousands of peaceful Tainos from their home to Spain as slaves, many of whom died en route. Only a few hundred Tainos were alive on Hispaniola 60 years later, out of what may have been a population of 250,000, due to the brutality of slave work on plantations, demand for gold and disease. The colonists also killed with impunity, slicing up random bodies and parading mutilated corpses through the streets.
Columbus also began the exchange of plants, animals and goods between East and West, which historians have traditionally called the “Columbian exchange.” Not all of this was bad, but the importation of European disease to indigenous peoples is often described as genocide, as opposed to the cultural genocide of forced conversion to Christianity.
So there you have it: Columbus as advocate of slavery. Columbus as importer of genocidal diseases. I think we have all the connections we need to Black Lives Matter and COVID-19. Did you learn any of that from the statue? Do you know anyone who learned that from the statue?
Perhaps we should read a few history books instead of erecting statues honoring genocidal, slave-promoting conquerors. Those statues tend to tell lies.
Charles Underwood, Minneapolis
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I am proud that Minnesota made history by electing the highest-ranking Native woman to executive office in the country. We need more diversity at all levels of government.
But Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan’s statement in support of the illegal destruction of property on the Capitol grounds is one of the most irresponsible statements I have seen in my many years observing politics (“GOP says Gov. Tim Walz shouldn’t have let Columbus statue topple,” StarTribune.com, June 11).
Whether or not the Columbus statue should remain is a fair question for the people of our state to decide, and there is a legal process to follow for its removal should they determine that the answer is no.
But a top member of the executive branch charged with enforcing state statutes applauding vigilantism and vandalism is reprehensible, particularly during this time of unprecedented and dangerous lawlessness in Minnesota.
Andy Brehm, Minneapolis
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The St. Paul statue of Columbus is a piece of art produced by an artist and should not be damaged or disfigured just because he may be disliked as a person.
State officials were warned about the protesters’ intentions and the patrol officers on the scene did nothing to stop them. And why did 40 officers gather only after the statue was torn down?
We should not turn our back on history but keep it in public view and learn by it so we do not perpetuate the sins of the past.
Norman Holen, Richfield
The writer is a professor of art.
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I have felt for years that the Columbus statue on the Capitol grounds should be moved elsewhere and replaced with a statue of Dred Scott holding his pleadings. I respect those who donated the statue, as well as the immigrant families who, a century ago, campaigned to create Columbus Day. But the reality is that Christopher Columbus doesn’t really have much to do with Minnesota.
Scott, on the other hand, has everything to do with Minnesota. His legal argument formed the unrealized aspiration that should inspire our state. And because the pedestal is located by the Supreme Court building, it is a proper place for our most famous litigant.
I do not like seeing destruction of public property. But the unlawful destruction of the Columbus statue should not impede us from lawfully replacing it with something more fitting.
Michael Walters, Rochester, Minn.
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