“Have a good day,” a gentleman said as I exited the elevator. As a Black woman from North Carolina who completed her undergraduate degree in Boston, hearing people greet me as I exit the elevator is still continually a shocker. At first glance, Minnesota Nice seems very wonderful because one many think, “Who wouldn’t want people greeting and noticing them in their apartment or neighborhood?” However, although I’ve only lived here for two months, I have already begun to see a huge problem with Minnesota Nice.
My friend worded it perfectly via text: “There is a lot of politeness, but a lack of connectedness in the Midwest.” I think people believe that politeness equates to kindness, but the reality is that politeness equates to a perceived perception of niceness. When you grow up in a culture circled around “politeness” and not connectedness, you create generations focused more on the image of being nice and are left with surface-level conversations.
Surface-level conversations don’t address the real issues and problems in society and essentially lead to avoiding conflict in situations. However, avoiding conflict all the time is not only unhealthy, but also dangerous because if you continually avoid conflict, you miss the opportunity to dive into deeper rooted issues. At the moment, one of the deeply rooted issues that have been avoided in Minneapolis has been racism.
Yes, racism is everywhere, but imagine living in a city where everyone is more worried about “politeness,” where people have avoided these uncomfortable conversations surrounding race for maybe their whole life. I attended an event a few weeks ago where a Black physician mentioned that last year was the first time she felt comfortable talking to her white colleagues or neighbors about race. Imagine how people of color and immigrant communities have been suffocating in silence in a city that considers itself “liberal” for their whole lives. I believe that a big issue for this is because of Minnesota Nice. Unless people decide to collectively dig a little bit deeper than just seeming nice to strangers, Minneapolis will continually be stuck in the same racial issues year after year.
This might be hard to believe, but if you are a white individual living in Minneapolis, I challenge you to look around at your friend group and ask these two questions. 1) Are most of my friends white? and 2) Among my friends who aren’t white, have I ever had deep, rooted conversations with them about their own experiences as a minority before George Floyd was murdered? When answering the first question, if you can only say you have one to three friends who are minorities — your friend group is not diverse. And if your answer is “yes” for question 1 and/or “no” for question 2, this proves my point.
Minnesota Nice causes you to be comfortable in the same friend group with individuals who think, look and act like you for your whole life. And even if you do have a diverse friend group, if you’ve never had any race conversations before George Floyd’s murder, it shows how Minnesota Nice has masked the opportunity for you to go deeper with your friends. As an outsider who recently moved to this city, I have been observing and thinking about these observations especially since many individuals have lived in this town or state for their whole life. If no one has ever mentioned that Minnesota Nice is more of a negative trait than a positive trait, I hope to shed light on this topic.
It is time for all of us to finally admit that Minnesota Nice is doing more harm than good. Let’s admit it: Minnesota Nice is making race conversations more difficult. So what are we going to do about it? Instead of immediately opting in for Minnesota Nice, let’s choose connectedness over politeness, deepness over shallowness and uncomfortability over comfort.
If we don’t, unfortunately, nothing will change and these race conversations will continually be difficult in the “liberal” city of Minneapolis.
Ayomide Ojebuoboh is a first-year medical school student in University of Minnesota’s MD/PhD in Epidemiology Program.
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