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After #pointergate, where do we go from here?

KSTP
While many in our community were shocked and outraged by the blatant display of racism contained in the KSTP 5 report, many in the African-American community saw #pointergate as yet another illustrative example of the dehumanizing way in which people of color are too often treated in Minnesota.

Minnesota, with a population of just over 5 million, is nationally known for having an overall high quality of life for its residents. Indeed, Minnesota enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates, one of the lowest poverty rates, one of the highest rates of homeownership, and one of the lowest rates of incarceration in the country. For decades, Minnesota has benefited from its longstanding reputation as being progressive and a land of opportunity for all. Last weekend, however, through the social-media firestorm known as #pointergate, the rest of the country became exposed to aspects of Minnesota’s culture that are typically hidden from outside view.

Nekima Levy-Pounds

Through blog posts, Twitter feeds, Facebook shares and commentary, #pointergate drew questions about the distorted relationships between news media, law enforcement, public officials, and the disparate treatment of young black men in Minnesota. It all started with a KSTP 5 news segment that falsely accused Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Navell Gordon (a young black man) of throwing up gang signs while out canvassing in North Minneapolis. This was made worse by the on-air statements of Lt. John Delmonico of the Minneapolis Police Federation and Michael Quinn, a retired Minneapolis police officer claiming that the mayor’s gesture (of pointing) put the safety of officers and the public at risk.

Long list of disparities

While many in our community were shocked and outraged by the blatant display of racism contained in the KSTP 5 report, many in the African-American community saw #pointergate as yet another illustrative example of the dehumanizing way in which people of color are too often treated in Minnesota. African-American men face excessively high unemployment and poverty rates (in the double-digits) in Minneapolis and other parts of the state. They are over-represented amongst our homeless population in Minnesota. They are significantly more likely to be arrested and charged with low-level, nonviolent offenses in comparison to their white counterparts.

Rabbi Michael Adam Latz

Young black men are also disproportionately placed in special-education settings, alternative schools, and referred for suspensions and school-based arrests at higher rates than white students. Although overall incarceration rates in Minnesota are low, they are disproportionately high for black men. It is worth noting, African-Americans are 5 percent of the state population, but represent more than 35 percent of those who are incarcerated.  Additionally, thousands of black men are placed on probation for long periods of time and run the risk of being re-incarcerated for probation violations, and not necessarily for commission of new offenses.

One of the hidden story lines within the #pointergate debacle is the stark evidence that we do not truly value young men of color in Minnesota. Through what are sometimes distorted media and law-enforcement narratives about the threat of young black men as gang members and criminals, we have been taught to fear them, disassociate ourselves from them, and exclude them from mainstream society.

This phenomenon is painful to witness and yet it will not go away through wishful thinking and nice smiles. In order to change the course that we are on, we will have to radically shift our way of thinking about people of color in our community and strive for greater levels of equity and inclusion, even for those who have been in the criminal-justice system.

What it will take to change

Young men like Navell Gordon who are working to turn their lives around after being incarcerated should be viewed as assets, rather than as menaces to society. We know that high rates of poverty in various pockets of the Twin Cities and an overconcentration of police in those neighborhoods, contribute to the widening gaps of inequality and criminal justice impacts that occur. 

Although many Minnesotans are well-meaning, the reality is that very few, even those in the upper echelon of various professions, will open their doors to young men like Navell to provide a pathway to opportunity and upward mobility. How many young men like Navell have been hired as apprentices and employees within our local media stations? How many young men like Navell are provided opportunities to work at Fortune 500 companies or within law enforcement or local government? In many ways, we have marginalized young black men to the bottom rungs of our society, with limited access to opportunity or an expansion of their personal networks.

The other disturbing revelation about #pointergate is that we have become a society more focused on punishment, rather than forgiveness and restoration. No matter how hard we try, we can’t punish our way to “public safety.” Instead, we must ask ourselves: What is the moral cost to our nation — indeed, to our souls — when we callously throw away a generation of young men of color? Where is our capacity to forgive? To welcome people who have committed crimes and done their time back into society so that they — and we — might thrive?

From punishment to restoration

The central issue of #pointergate is this: We must care for one another — even those who have committed offenses — and we need to move from a punishment society to a restorative, more just community. We are stronger when we forgive and give second chances to those who are looking to reintegrate back into society.

In short, it is easy to single out the blatant, discriminatory conduct of KSTP (and yes, it needs to be called out and swiftly addressed). But it is much more difficult to hold up a mirror to the ways in which our own personal biases, structural and institutional racism across many of our systems, public policy and budgetary decisions, and apathy in holding law enforcement accountable all helped to lay the groundwork for #pointergate and the national embarrassment that it has brought to our state.

We can’t point the figure solely at KSTP without also pointing the finger at ourselves and the role that we play as individuals, and that our institutions play, in perpetuating the day to day injustices that set the stage for #pointergate and all its troubling implications about race relations and inequality in our state.

Shalom.

Nekima Levy-Pounds is a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas and the founder and director of the Community Justice Project, an award-winning civil rights legal clinic. Michael Adam Latz is the senior rabbi at the Shir Tikvah Congregation in Minneapolis.

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Comments (57)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/12/2014 - 08:52 am.

    There is no doubt that there is a lot of overtly racist coppers in MPD, but it can’t be said they don’t spread their thuggery around to people of all races.

    First of all, I’m convinced the Mayor was flashing a gang sign. It’s not that she supports gangster life; she is just anxious as a cat to prove how multi cultural she is. I’m sure she doesn’t agree with Muslim oppression of women, but she happily dons a hijab when meeting with male Somali leaders. Same thing.

    That being said, this was a dumb stunt by petulant cops, and a poor decision by KSTP. But it’s not racism.

    Ms Levy Pounds should have a care; she’s earning a reputation for race baiting. That’s something that helps no one. Save your outrage for events that deserve it.

    • Submitted by khalid Mo on 11/12/2014 - 10:17 am.

      Educate yourself

      I suppose you also think nuns when they’re out in 90 degree heat with head covering on are also oppressed…
      Mayor Hodges wore Hijab out of respect…You need to educate yourself, think rationally and critically. It’s not as hard as it seems…but it does require actual thinking instead of relying on emotions and bias. You should give it a try one of these days because there is nothing rational or factual about the silly conclusion (generalization) you’ve come up with.

    • Submitted by meme crawley on 11/12/2014 - 10:25 am.

      “Convinced its a gang sign”

      If you are convinced its a gang sign please tell us what GANG its from. Also ANY event in which a person of color is discriminated against or painted in a bad light needs to be addressed. How does the ruling class get to tell the oppressed class what’s worth fighting for? how does that work?

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/12/2014 - 11:26 am.

        This wasn’t a racist incident. Those that like to tag everything with race set progress back. You’re not helping.

        • Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 11/12/2014 - 11:58 am.

          You’re right

          The incident itself was just finger pointing, and was clearly not racist or gang related in any way. Just a couple of people doing what people have done for a long time, point at each other.

          The racism comes from Kolls, Delmanico, Quinn, and the apologists, all intent on perpetuating the very tired meme of the scary black man, who because of his background must be in a gang – which one I’m not sure, but you can tell us right.

    • Submitted by D.A. Bullock on 11/12/2014 - 11:04 am.

      Your conviction in being wrong is astonishing

      And part of the problem, you are like too many of the citizenry that think their belief and bias is evidence. All the facts presented state that the young man is not in a gang, whether you believe that or not. You can have your own twisted reality, problem is you and your ilk end up on jurys and end up working as officers of the law or teachers. Damn the facts, “I have no doubt.” Please for the sake of all that is good in this world, avoid jury duty at all cost.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/12/2014 - 05:32 pm.

      Donning a hijab = endorsement of oppression of women?

      It’s called a gesture of respect. Ever hear of it?

      If a visitor to a synagogue puts on a yarmulke, is he opposed to eating pork? If a visitor to a Catholic mass crosses himself, is that an endorsement of certain teachings or behaviors of the Church of Rome?

  2. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 11/12/2014 - 09:31 am.

    “opportunities to work at Fortune 500 companies”…

    …are routinely denied to people with a criminal history, regardless of their race – it’s NOT just young black men with a criminal history.

    Ms. Levy-Pounds seems to mistake these widespread corporate policies for racism. If you are a felon, your race is beside the point – your chances of being hired are significantly impacted by your criminal background alone.

    • Submitted by meme crawley on 11/12/2014 - 10:22 am.

      Criminal History

      Did you know that a White criminal has a a better chance of getting a job than a Black young man fresh out of High School or College. Yes people are denied jobs for criminal records but even when they are Blacks get “NO” as an answer more frequently regardless of the TYPE of crime committed.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/12/2014 - 11:41 am.

        Please provide the source for your conclusion that white criminals are hired before black college grads.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 11/12/2014 - 11:59 am.

        I am interested in the facts behind your comment, so please…

        …cite a source for your “Did you know?” statement. If true, it deserves to have a light shined on it. If you are only speculating, that’s another matter.

        I think regardless of the facts, the message to the young, black or white, should be:

        “Don’t commit crimes. It destroys your future.”

        • Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 11/12/2014 - 01:41 pm.

          “Don’t commit crimes. It destroys your future.”

          Standing alone, that’s a self-evident truth.

          But lets look at how crimes get legislated, apprehended, investigated, and prosecuted. For generations, the culture in the US has meted out more arrests, less leniency, and harsher punishment for blacks than whites.

          One example has been the significant disparities between powder cocaine possession and crack. This is finally being addressed but a generation of black men were singled out and punished disproportionately. (see for exampple: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2010/08/03/data-show-racial-disparity-in-crack-sentencing)

          Right here in Minneapolis, black men are questioned by police for spitting on the sidewalk. This lets the cops run their IDs, maybe get the spitter mad so he “resists” police inquiries, and bam, a police record starts, or a parole violation leads to more repercussions. For spitting. On a sidewalk.

          I have lived in Minneapolis for 19 years. I have never, ever heard of a white person being approached by a cop for spitting. Never. But on the Northside? You betcha. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Police ticketing and arrest for ‘nuisance’ crime in black communities is longstanding and damaging tactic.

          So when one makes the on its face racially neutral statement “Don’t commit crimes. It destroys your future.” it lacks any context as to how communities are actually policed & prosecuted. Sure, you didn’t mean spitting as the crime, but it goes to patterns of abusive policing and targeting of black men.

          And once in the system, as cited in the other link I just posted here, black lives are more seriously damaged by a record than whites. In that context, even the “it destroys your future” depends on your skin color.

    • Submitted by Johan Baumeister on 11/12/2014 - 11:46 am.

      If only your fantasy world…

      …was the one we lived in. Perhaps then, some of the black men I’ve dated in my life would have had jobs appropriate to their degrees, wages that allowed them to live in certain neighborhoods, and families that weren’t perpetually battling against forces conspiring to drag them back down into poverty.

      Did you know that the average black family holds assets worth just 1/20th of what the average white family owns?

      Did you know that time and time again, without variation, studies show that resumes and applications from black men are far less successful at achieving even an interview (much less a job) than identical resumes with a “white name” or face attached to them?

      Did you know that an ex-boyfriend of mine once looked at me like I was insane when I suggested he come around to the side entrance of the house I was renting, as it was more convenient? He didn’t realize the neighborhood was mostly black, and his response was that he didn’t care to get arrested because some nosy neighbor thought he was coming to rob us. This despite a clean record with not so much as a speeding ticket on his part. Never once was that thought vocalized any white guy I dated.

      You need to understand that the gulf between the worlds that black people and white people inhabit is much larger than you realize, or you’ll continue to say and do things that will be construed as racism. And to be honest, refusing to accept the truth of these disparities *is* a form of racism: “willful ignorance,” I believe it’s called.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 11/12/2014 - 01:05 pm.

        Amazing !! Observing that criminal history reduces…

        …employment opportunity – regardless of race – is now RACIST !!??

        I have never heard anything so ridiculous !!

  3. Submitted by Linda Miller on 11/12/2014 - 10:02 am.

    Thanks for your insight

    Well Mr. Swift, if you’re convinced the mayor was flashing a gang sign, it must be true then.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/12/2014 - 11:31 am.

      It is for me.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 11/12/2014 - 12:30 pm.

        That’s a low bar.

      • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 11/12/2014 - 01:04 pm.

        A pall on truth

        You’ve cast a pall on truth, and reason. Truth for you is whatever you want it to be, not whatever the facts merit. Using reason, one can easily judge this case for exactly what it is- a racially prejudicial hit-piece on a Mayor the MPD doesn’t like using an unidentified black man as the bait.

        Maybe people in South Carolina think it’s not racist, but up here, we do. This garbage reminds me of Willie Horton.

        • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/12/2014 - 02:21 pm.

          Jonathon, like everywhere else, there are people in South Carolina looking for race in every nook and cranny.

          There are also thoughtful people that reject race baiting for the unproductive, pandering act it is.

          • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 11/12/2014 - 02:36 pm.

            Yup.

            “There are also thoughtful people that reject race baiting for the unproductive, pandering act it is.”

            That’s why the rest of us are condemning KSTP for this story.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 11/12/2014 - 06:14 pm.

            Many of which

            you enthusiastically voted for. You do know that South Carolina is the most racist state in the country?

            • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/13/2014 - 07:25 am.

              Please explain that to Tim Scott, who I was proud to join with the majority of my fellow Carolinians in seating in the US Senate, Myron.

              Sheesh.

              • Submitted by jason myron on 11/13/2014 - 05:37 pm.

                Of course Tim Scott blows your skirt up, Swift.

                Tea Party, wants the Ten Commandments posted, supports right to work ( LOL..nice misnomer), tried to deny food stamps to families, tried to strip the NLRB of its ability to punish companies from relocating in order to punish union membership or strikes, opposes restrictions on deep water drilling, etc, etc….what’s not to love?

        • Submitted by Lydia Howell on 11/13/2014 - 06:43 pm.

          Willie Horton MN-style

          Yes Thomas Swift seems impervious to any facts other than the ones he has created. He & other who WILLFULLY cling to the idea that Mayor Hodges was exchanging “gang signs” IN SPITE OF ALL EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY are living proof of how racism operates today…and ho9w challenging it is to ahve an intelligent dialogue about it in order to root it out

          • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/13/2014 - 09:30 pm.

            I haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary, and haven’t missed the fact that unless you think all caps count, you didn’t bring any to share either.

  4. Submitted by Tom Clark on 11/12/2014 - 10:07 am.

    Along with cultural issues, a finger still needs pointing

    Not to ignore the broader issues that this essay touches on about #pointergate, but for me that takeaway is that some past and current members of the Minneapolis Police Department secretly contacted KSTP’s Kolls to pass along a sensationalistic photo (and deliberately deceiving one at that) and story that was obviously intended to publically discredit Mayor Hodges. It not only hasn’t succeeded, it’s backfired on the MPD and KSTP so much that they’re the ones who are having to do damage control. While I hold out little hope that KSTP will ever acknowledge the many ways they failed on this story, the MPD may have learned from the experience.

    • Submitted by Johan Baumeister on 11/12/2014 - 11:49 am.

      Careful With The Finger Pointing (Seriously)

      It was John Delmonico of the Minneapolis Police Federation who was the active officer that spoke. Delmonico does not speak for the department, only the MPF.

      Other than the odd deletion of a picture from their twitter feed, MPD hasn’t really officially involved themselves in this. Just a former and a current officer have.

      So let’s, like Mayor Hodges, be scrupulously fair in pointing out that the vast majority of MPD wasn’t involved in this and doesn’t need to be dragged into this by us until and unless wrongdoing can be proved.

      • Submitted by Tom Clark on 11/12/2014 - 12:40 pm.

        Thank you

        I appreciate the caution and agree with you on overall MPD involvement with respect to this issue.

      • Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 11/12/2014 - 01:16 pm.

        Careful, yes, but look closer too

        I generally agree, but bear in mind that, per the MPF’s biography of him “He has served on the Board of Directors for the Minneapolis Police Federation since 1989, and has been the President since 1999.”

        He has been elected and reelected to represent the MPF for 15+ years. That does not implicate every officer, but one presumes a majority thinks he represents their objectives and views.

        • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 11/13/2014 - 07:19 am.

          If Delmonico is only speaking for himself…

          then perhaps some other Minneapolis cop or spokesman or the chief will speak up against him. Haven’t heard that yet and don’t expect to.

  5. Submitted by Pat Thompson on 11/12/2014 - 11:16 am.

    Thanks, and some background

    Thanks for this excellent piece that provides needed background.

    One specific thing that everyone should look for in the video is that Hodges points at Gordon first, and then he mirrors her action. And that Hodges has pointed pretty frequently in other photos taken of her — clearly, it’s just something she does.

    On the larger topic of the criminalization of black people covered by Professor Levy-Pounds, I would recommend the book The Condemnation of Blackness. You can find a summary here (including a link to a 5-minute video of the author sharing his main points). http://daughternumberthree.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-condemnation-of-blackness.html

  6. Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 11/12/2014 - 12:46 pm.

    Here’s the source

    The Times did a story on it in 2005.
    Lede: “White men with prison records receive far more offers for entry-level jobs in New York City than black men with identical records, and are offered jobs just as often – if not more so – than black men who have never been arrested, according to a new study by two Princeton professors.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/17/nyregion/17felons.html

    If you are willing to go deeper, “Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work” by Devah Pager unwraps the ways that the criminal justice system creates long-term barriers for blacks that are not similar to those for whites.
    http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/M/bo5485761.html

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 11/12/2014 - 02:28 pm.

      Citation from the NY Times is on point.

      “For every 10 white men without convictions who got a job offer or callback, more than 7 white men with prison records also did, the study found. But the difference grew far larger for black applicants: For every 10 black men without criminal convictions, only about 3 with records got offers or callbacks.”

      7/10 (whites) vs. 3/10 (blacks) is indeed a significant difference. So even though criminal history is a negative employment factor for anyone – regardless of race – it’s definitely worse for blacks.

      Point taken.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/12/2014 - 04:00 pm.

      Not being arrested doesn’t equate to a college degree. I thought that statement looked bogus, and it is.

  7. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 11/12/2014 - 12:48 pm.

    Again, Mr. Swift

    Which gang is it associated with?

    • Submitted by jason myron on 11/13/2014 - 06:57 am.

      Apparently, it’s the same gang

      that thousands and thousands of sports fans filling stadiums all over the world belong to, not to mention friends and family members. In fact, a bunch of us just took a selfie last night at our fantasy football meeting…I guess we’re in a gang too.

  8. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/12/2014 - 01:15 pm.

    Race and politics

    It may very well be that the original intent of the supposed story that the photo supports wasn’t based on race, but rather, politics. It seems to me that a couple of politically disgruntled cops decided to use racial stereotyping to take out a political foe–Mayor Hodges–for saying things they don’t like, mainly that some of the police force are thugs themselves. I agree with the mayor on this one, and these two cops proved it. They used racial profiling and thuggery to try to discredit Mayor Hodges using the “scary black man” bogeyman. While they might not represent the majority of cops, they certainly don’t paint the Minneapolis Police Department in a very flattering light. Quite frankly, I’d support the currently employed officer’s firing for putting his face on air for such an obviously ridiculous thing. He did, after all, do so as a cop, even if not as the spokesman for department. And, if I was a member of the MPF, I’d seriously consider removing him from his position there for showing a lack of common sense.

    • Submitted by Michael Friedman on 11/12/2014 - 02:19 pm.

      Time to go

      Or remove him because he has lost whatever credibility he may have had and anything he argues in the future cannot be taken seriously by anyone.

  9. Submitted by Nekima Levy-Pounds on 11/12/2014 - 04:23 pm.

    Guilty as Charged

    Thomas Swift,

    I have found that some folks will do anything to avoid staring truth about race relations in our community in the face. If calling out the truth is race-baiting, then I’m guilty as charged. It’s a good thing that God is the judge. I will continue to stand for truth, justice, freedom, and equality just as Dr. King and others did. I am sure that those who settled for the status quo didn’t like what he had to say either. That didn’t stop him and it won’t stop me either. As the good book says, “They shall know the truth and the truth shall make them free.”

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 11/12/2014 - 06:20 pm.

      You have no corner on the truth, Ms. Levy-Pounds, and…

      …no amount of singing out the names of justice, freedom, God, Dr. King, etc. will cause your certainty – that race is the sole factor in the ills you describe in this column – to come to be the One and Only Truth.

      There is more going on here than racism and racism alone.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/12/2014 - 08:02 pm.

      There are ways to respectfully begin discussions on race relations and there is race baiting. This is the latter.

      There are many, like myself, that are not afraid to admit racism still effects people of all races. We agree it’s time to look beyond skin color. However, when the discussion turns into a laundry list of things others are obligated to do without any effort on the part of the aggrieved, we often find it has become a waste of time.

  10. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 11/12/2014 - 07:45 pm.

    Statistics

    What is racist in the KSTP report? What is discriminatory there? Can anyone explain? It looks to be against the Mayor (and maybe gangs), not people of color… it is purely political.

    Again, statistics… So 35% of the incarcerated are African-Americans while they constitute only 5% of the population. Does it mean that almost all judges are racists – that is too much of a difference for just a few of them to be racists? And that is in the Twin Cities (I guess, that is where majority of African-Americans live) where most people are very liberal? Can it be that it represents actual problems within the African- American community? Men constitute absolute majority of incarcerated people – does it mean that all judges are man-haters?

    Mr. Eklund, people in South Carolina just elected a black senator and 70% of whites voted for him.

    Or, by the way, did anyone notice that Minnesota has one of the lowest poverty level in America despite having one of the lowest minimum wages (until this year, that is)?

    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 11/13/2014 - 07:32 am.

      The racism is obvious…

      If that guy had been white doing the exact same thing there would have been no story. Period. His race made the story.

      And while everyone is bemoaning the slight to the mayor, how about this guy who is accused by innuendo on TV for being a gangster and criminal. He served his time, he is redeeming himself, he is turning his life around, but because he is black channel 5 accuses him of being a gangster and criminal.

      Cherry pick your stats all day, pretend we are a color blind society, deny your own racism and white privilege, but the truth is the truth.

      Since I don’t see any cops standing up against Delmonico’s statement and channel 5 is sticking by their story, I say (and since I say, that make’s it so, Mr. Swift) that there is racism in the police department and in the channel 5 newsroom.

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 11/13/2014 - 01:02 pm.

      “Mr. E[c]klund, people in South Carolina just elected a black senator and 70% of whites voted for him.”

      Whenever a black republican is elected, republicans point to them and say ‘we don’t have a race problem!’ The issue is, Republicans DO have a race problem, they just cannot see it. This is kind of like saying “I have a black friend so I can’t be prejudiced!”

      I can’t respond to the rest. The mind boggles.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/13/2014 - 04:54 pm.

        Republicans DO have a race problem

        Race baiting leftists are everyone’s problem. Take some time to listen to what my US Senator, Tim Scott has to say on the matter.

  11. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/13/2014 - 09:11 am.

    Gruber

    I just think this is another example of Jonathon Gruber’s point. Americans are stupid.

  12. Submitted by Anita Newhouse on 11/13/2014 - 10:20 am.

    What it will take to change

    Incorrect pervasive perceptions such as those harbored by society toward young black men take on the affect of a disease process. Assumptions and attitudes spiral through the community unchecked, especially when seemingly legitimate outlets such as public servants and the media reinforce what many do not know to be true through first hand experience. There is a ground zero in the community and it is our schools. Minneapolis Public School Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson recently announced a ban on elementary age school suspensions and a case by case review of suspensions of black students. From actual experience working and volunteering in classrooms, I can give witness to the effect suspensions of black students has on our perceptions of them from this crucial point. Without any conscious effort, suspended students’ peers and the adults who work with them begin to see those students as “bad” and begin from that point to interpret their behavior as such. Studies have shown that this is true whether we accept it or not. We may not want to be or act racist but we are through the conditioning that happens passively as we observe the treatment of others, especially within settings like our schools and neighborhoods. These are the settings where we forge our values and identities and few people actively challenge these roots of institutional racism and so it continues. I applaud Superintendent Johnson for taking a stand and showing what it will take to change.

    • Submitted by Lydia Howell on 11/13/2014 - 06:54 pm.

      Nuanced Explation of How Racial Biaes are Formed

      THANK YOU to Ms.Levy-Pounds for this essay & Anita Newhouse for a nuanced look at how racial biaes are formed (without us even realizeing it!) I can only hope that far more people open their eyes, minds, & hearts so we can CHANGE these biases.

  13. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 11/13/2014 - 06:24 pm.

    Logic

    Mr. Schletzer is exactly right: if this guy were white, no one would have noticed. The guy’s face was blurred so the article was definitely not about him (even though the information provided about him is correct – he has not served his time) but everyone made it about him…

    Psychologists like showing people pictures and asking them what they see. If someone sees the same thing all the time no matter what a picture is showing, that person most likely will be considered not entirely normal. When people see racism everywhere (and try to find it everywhere), it is not normal…And accusing everyone you disagree with of racism is a chip shot and does not prove anything – and that is the truth.

    Mr. Ecklund (sorry for misspelling your name), when 70% of white people vote for a black person, it clearly shows that there is no racism even though it is hard for you to acknowledge. Mr. Scott is not their friend; they just elected their senator based on issues rather than on race. So you can see a non-existent problem because it is politically expedient but that doesn’t make that problem real. And of course responding to the rest of my arguments would require denial of mathematics and logic – a difficult thing to do.

  14. Submitted by Martin Owings on 11/14/2014 - 02:15 pm.

    The History

    I read through the comments here and would like to make a few points.

    Nikema Levi-Pounds is correct and right to point out the racial components in this story. She is also right to use the opportunity to point out other racial disparities. She is also right argue for change.

    Those that see race baiting here are failing to recognize two important factors, history and white privilege.

    History – It’s happened continually throughout American history. If you spend your time arguing with this immutable fact you’re either ignorant about our history or you refuse to see it for what it is.

    White Privilege – You never experienced the issues being raised here, therefore they must not exist. You’ve enjoyed a life insulated from the unique hardships endured by people of color. You either accept this and learn something or you remain ignorant.

    PS – Just because 70% of white people in a Southern state vote for a black person doesn’t mean racism has suddenly disappeared, just like denying racism doesn’t make it magically go away.

    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 11/14/2014 - 07:27 pm.

      Please

      Mr. Owings, I see your points – you are saying that Ms. Levi-Pounds is right in everything. Now please try to see my points. History is history and racism did happen on a large scale. But it also happened towards Asians…and anti-Semitism also happened and on a much larger scale. It is still happening. Do you see many people arguing for helping Jews and Asians, giving them extra points in college admission, or counting how many of them are in jail?

      White privilege… so how does a son of a white South African immigrant experience that compared to a son of a black attorney? Actually, the latter will have easier time getting into a college…

      I also wonder when you would agree that racism disappears: When 100% of whites will vote for a black senator? Stop looking for racism all the time – it is not healthy for anyone.

  15. Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 11/19/2014 - 02:46 pm.

    Big gang signs

    Goodness, all those people at football games, wearing giant foam Gang Signs on their hands! Shocking, fall of civilization, conspiracy, o the horror, rant rant rant. There. Now I have contributed to the meaningful discussion here.

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