I wish to thank Tiffany Johnson for the vulnerability she displayed in her April 18 commentary "The white family at Lake Minnetonka and words unspoken." I really felt her anxiety and discomfort; I have felt the same thing sometimes when encountering Black people (I'm white). I wonder if they will hate me because of my skin color and what's going on around town. I feel anxious about greeting them in the event they may display anger toward me (Lord knows they have a right to totally mistrust and dislike white people). And I too feel upset if/when I assume such things about them and don't treat them like I would any white person.
My discomfort, I think, comes partly from my sense of humiliation that my ancestors weren't willing to improve this gap between the races. But am I doing anything better? I hope so, but it will never seem like enough. However, the next time I encounter Black people around town, I will think of you, Ms. Johnson, and will be the one who takes the "risk" of stepping up to greet another human being. God bless you and your family.
Gloria Karbo, Minneapolis
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Thank you, Tiffany Johnson for your essay. You put words to your feelings, and those words resonated strongly and poignantly with me.
Two points in particular stuck with me. First was the fact that you were bothered that you had seen the white family as "racist, or at least responsible for the awkward moment." I love that this bothered you. Then you named the white family's fear, not of "Black people, but fear from shame." I love that you recognized this. You spoke my heart when you wrote those words.
Janny Gothro, Edina
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I read your lines, Ms. Johnson, and looked for an uplifting message, and in the end found one. That being that you found some peace with the occurrence.
It was not the message I wanted, but that probably means I will remember it longer. And I know I shouldn't judge, but, somehow, I feel like the family that was there should've said something. How hard would it have been to say, "How are you fine people this morning?"
We are people, all of us. Different in our traditions, but then so would a white Russian or French family have been different in that regard. Yet I feel like the "hellos" would've come to such people, and if an awkward exchange ensued after that, so what?
I traced my grandfather's DNA through National Geographic's Genographic Project, not to learn the country my family most recently came from but where it originated. My family walked out of Africa, near Kenya, 65,000 years ago, and headed north through the Middle East. A branch swung toward China and died out, and another branch eventually swung over to the Sápmi region above Norway and Sweden where the Sámi people live. The process stops tracing the line there 5,000 years ago.
I suppose somewhere along the line in the 60,000-year trek, my ancestors became white. Other family members I traced followed similar paths but swung more southerly in Europe. That's it. Our heritage, yours and mine, is exactly the same, except for some customs and one hell of a lot of privilege on the side whose skin lightened up.
If our families had encountered each other 60,000 years ago, I would like to think in whatever manner was handy, they would've said hello. So much for learning, eh?
Don Anderson, Minneapolis
Study this: White supremacy risks vs. those of a dangling air freshener
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka ("Pressure grows to pass new policing laws" April 18) questions whether a written policy is necessary to prevent police officers from affiliating with white supremacist groups. Yet we seem to have found it necessary to create a law that says you can't hang an air freshener from your rearview mirror. The contrast defies logic. Gazelka also wants to do "fact-finding." Well, here is a fact-finding mission for him: How many people have died as a result of dangling air fresheners (or even expired tabs, the initial reason Daunte Wright was stopped), and how many have died as a result of racism, which is belief in white supremacy?
Across the nation, traffic stops for minor offenses have become the incendiary force for police action to become deadly. Police officers are called "law enforcement," but their motto is "to protect and serve." These two are not always compatible and are even more opposed when racism is at play. Law enforcement for minor offenses should never end in death. We need to revise when police are allowed to pull a driver over. We need to fire officers for association with white supremacist groups, and train well-meaning officers to recognize their unconscious bias. These are necessities. These are facts.
Carol McNamara, Minneapolis
Dennis Anderson is right: GOP impedes state's path to greatness
Dennis Anderson does a stellar job laying out a perennial problem with our Minnesota Legislature in his April 18 column "GOP push to cut, shift funds darkens future." The yearly effort by the GOP to cut, shift and perform sleight of hand is dragging Minnesota down a path of no return to greatness. Voters should know that these GOP tactics are occurring in most areas, from the environment, clean energy, electric cars and clean transportation to health care, child care, helping small farmers, and infrastructure. Voters should know that many important House bills do not even get a hearing in the GOP-controlled Senate. As Anderson states, "we can continue our current path and, watch it slip away, legislative session by legislative session."
MIKE MENZEL, EDINA
Thoughtful argument on filibuster, but one from a point of privilege
Judge Bruce Peterson presents a thoughtful argument against dismantling obstructions to majority rule, such as the U.S. Senate's filibuster ("Beware the dangers of bare-knuckled majority rule," Opinion Exchange, April 18). But it must be acknowledged that it's a view from privilege.
Peterson asks the "confident proponents of more majority rule to seriously consider whether they want to ride roughshod over an anxious minority at a particularly sensitive time." The anxious minority he's referring to, he makes clear, is minority-party (Republican) whites threatened by the reality that the U.S. will soon be majority nonwhite.
This anxiety has been expressed through a rash of Republican voter-restriction bills introduced in 47 states. These bills — ostensibly aimed at fixing a mythical election security problem — in fact, "ride roughshod over" racial minorities. The For the People Act (HR 1, S 1) would counter these measures, codifying voter protection into federal law. But the bill is dead on arrival in the Senate given the filibuster, which would require support from at least 10 members of the anxious minority party.
Sure, it would be better if Democrats and Republicans would come together to seek "a common future everyone wants." But if removing the filibuster to pass this ballot access measure is the only way to ensure that Black voters are, once and for all, included in that common future, I say so be it. Senate leaders — and opinion writers — should recognize this opportunity not as a partisan power grab, but as a necessary and fitting step toward the racial equity legacy of George Floyd that so many are promising.
Rich Cowles, Eagan
It wouldn't change much, you say? Not everyone knows a guy …
In response to an April 18 letter writer who says the world won't really be that new if marijuana is legalized, I have a couple disagreements.
First, he says marijuana is already widely available to anyone who wants it. I am 70, have lived in Minneapolis my entire life, and I haven't a clue where to go to obtain marijuana. You don't go into bars asking people if they know a guy — at least I wouldn't.
Second, yes, I would love to try it and would rush to buy it as soon as available. It might help with my arthritis pain, and I might appreciate the relaxing intoxication effects. I agree that it probably is a safer drug than alcohol, which is available everywhere.