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How pride and allegiance to Minnesota prevent equity and change

More Minnesotans need to acknowledge that it’s OK to criticize one’s state and that it’s OK if one believes that it is not the best place in the world.

Minneapolis
Minneapolis

“Boston is bigger than Minneapolis.”

I didn’t realize that this short statement would cause someone to respond defensively by mentioning that Minneapolis is definitely bigger than Boston. I disagreed with the statement, but once again received resistance. I eventually stopped trying to argue and later in the month searched to confirm who was right and voila, the statistics show that Boston is bigger than Minneapolis.

I bring up this conversation not because I care about whether or not people believe that Boston is bigger than Minneapolis, but because I’ve noticed this common trend of Minnesotans becoming overly defensive if someone criticizes the state. When someone mentions problems with Minnesota, instead of people thinking, “That’s a good point. As a state, we need to work on that,” people are quick to argue and give an objectively inaccurate statement to defend the state. This pride and allegiance to Minnesota mirrors American nationalism and unfortunately blinds people from seeing the need for change.

Is part of this mentality due to the fact that many people have been in the state since they were very young, or because of the huge levels of segregation preventing people from interacting with people from different backgrounds and seeing the inequities among communities? Or is it due to Minnesota Nice, which keeps people in this utopia of believing that since everyone is nice, everything is OK? I think it’s a combination of all these different factors, but it all ties to Minnesota’s culture.

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I have a theory that although change is slow everywhere, it is unnecessarily slow in Minnesota because of the culture. Examining Minnesota’s statistics and history also reveals this problem especially when it involves racial and health equity. In 2015, Jamar Clark was murdered, then in 2016, Philando Castile was murdered and then, once again in 2020, George Floyd was murdered — all by police officers in the Twin Cities. Additionally,  Blue Cross and Blue Shield released an article in May 2021 titled “Racial and health inequities have been a part of Minnesota’s ‘normal.’ That needs to change.”

See the pattern? All of this evidence proves that the culture of Minnesota is rooted in white supremacy and racism and that Minnesota is in desperate need of change. So, how should Minnesota move forward in 2022?

Ayomide Ojebuoboh
Ayomide Ojebuoboh
First of all, more people in Minnesota need to acknowledge that it’s OK to criticize one’s state and that it’s OK if one believes that it is not the best place in the world. Thinking that everything is best in Minnesota and arguing with others who mention its flaws will not move this state forward. In fact, this mentality will keep Minnesota stuck behind times while the rest of the nation is moving forward.

Second, people who have lived in Minnesota for the majority of their lives should visit other countries and live in other states for a certain period of time. Experiencing different cultures and meeting people from other backgrounds can truly shape one’s viewpoint and can break down preconceived biases.

If this option is not financially feasible, then long-time Minnesotans should also make the effort of meeting people from different backgrounds by visiting immigrant communities, moving to diverse instead of racially homogenous neighborhoods or even volunteering at places with diverse populations. These small interactions can alter your own viewpoint which can trickle down to how you act at your workplace, what statements you make to your colleagues from marginalized backgrounds and what policies you speak up against in your workplace. Your little steps can be part of the overall change in Minnesota’s culture and that is very impactful.

Current students and professionals in Minnesota should also be encouraged to pursue careers focused more on action toward equity versus denial and complacency regarding issues in Minnesota. There are phenomenal role models in Minnesota doing work toward racial and health equity like Dr. Brittany Lewis, a community-engaged qualitative scholar focused on equity-based action, Dr. Rachel Hardeman, who began the Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity, and Mr. Justin Terrell, the executive director of the Minnesota Justice Research Center.

Overall, my role is not to change a culture, but I share this because I’m worried that the fire from 2020 is slowly dying and will eventually leave Minnesota in the same position as pre-2020.

So, as we enter 2022, I want to encourage those of us who live in Minnesota to be more honest of the reality that Minnesota’s culture is blinding people against pursuing equity and change in this state. It’s time for a cultural shift and for more people to be eager for change. Without this eagerness, Minnesota will forever be stuck in this endless cycle of denial and defensiveness instead of constructive criticism and action because the latter is the future toward equity and change in Minnesota in 2022 and onward.

Ayomide Ojebuoboh is an MD/PhD student at the University of Minnesota.