Duluth mayor taking nasty heat for anti-racism campaign

Duluth’s anti-racism campaign has Mayor Don Ness and others taking some nasty heat. Larry Oakes of the Strib reports: “A close-up of a white woman’s face confronts motorists from billboards plastered along major roads here with the message, in large, black letters: ‘It’s hard to see racism when you’re white.’ … One of the stated goals of the campaign is to create a community dialogue. In that regard, it got more than it bargained for. Hundreds of the city’s white residents have complained that the campaign’s kick-off images and messages are offensive. The campaign, they say, blames all racism on whites and implies that white people aren’t smart enough to recognize racism. Meanwhile, the campaign’s defenders and sponsors, including Mayor Don Ness, say they’ve received dozens of hateful messages and e-mails from all over the world, as news of the campaign hit websites that cater to white supremacists and other racists. One message to Ness: ‘Die, scum, die.’ ‘I became kind of a lightning rod for groups outside our community,’ said Ness, who was accused in messages from as far away as Scotland of inviting ‘white genocide’ and being a ‘traitor’ to his race.” Really? “White genocide”? How? With trans fats and corn syrup?

It goes without saying we miss her. Our Favorite Congresswoman, Ms. Bachmann, made an appearance on CNN with John King and said: “[Rick Santorum’s] surprise victories Tuesday were a ‘shot across the bow’ for the GOP. ‘I think what we saw is that the voters haven’t made up their mind yet on who the Republican nominee should be,’ Bachmann said. ‘But really the biggest signal that was sent is that Barack Obama is in big trouble.’ Bachmann said Minnesota’s contest was the first in the 2012 election cycle where voters zeroed in on social issues given the swirl of attention on new rules from the federal government requiring employers, including religious institutions, to include contraception in their health insurance plans. ‘This was the first social issue election that we’ve had so far, that’s what you saw in Minnesota,’ Bachmann said. ‘That’s what you saw in Missouri and Colorado. You saw social conservatives weigh in a big way for the first time and I think it’s because of Barack Obama’s policies.’ ” Yup. Every less than 1 percent of registered voters of them weighed in in a “big way.”

It may not be the final day of righteous reckoning, but it’s a start for 17,000 Minnesota homeowners. That’s the number in Jessica Mador’s MPR story on the big fraud settlement with giant banks: “17,000 Minnesota homeowners who went through foreclosure between 2008 and the end of last year could be eligible for some financial relief under the terms of a long-awaited deal announced Thursday. … University of Minnesota law professor and former assistant Attorney General Prentiss Cox said the settlement stemmed from the mortgage meltdown and investigations into revelations that some banks had rushed foreclosures without proper documentation. ‘This is the first time that we’ve forced the mortgage companies to pony up money to help solve the problems the mortgage industry created,’ Cox said. ‘In the past, we’ve had taxpayer-funded incentives to mortgage companies to do the right thing.’ ” Still, a perp walk would be such a balm for the soul.

Abusive husbands are bad enough, but abusive dates affect one-third of teenage girls. Sasha Aslainian, also at MPR reports: “Federal statistics report that one in every three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. The Preventing Teen Violence Report issued recommendations for preventing teen dating violence, better coordination of prevention efforts and more youth leadership on anti-violence work. The state health department and the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women released a statewide plan Thursday to prevent teen dating violence. Sasha Cotton of the Coalition for Battered Women says over 18 months, study authors interviewed hundreds of young Minnesotans about what they’ve witnessed and experienced. Among 12th grade girls, one in seven said they had been hit, hurt, threatened or made to feel afraid by their partner, the Minnesota Student Survey found.”

GOP legislators are keen on (another) amendment. This is the one to require a California-style “super majority” to pass any tax increase. A study out by The Minnesota Budget Project says: “Minnesota could see pressure to increase property taxes if a constitutional supermajority amendment is adopted, according to a new Minnesota Budget Project analysis. Our report warns that restricting legislators’ ability to raise taxes would make it harder to provide the services that residents want and value. Policymakers would look for ways to fund services that don’t need supermajority votes. Past experience has shown that the inability to raise taxes at the state level in Minnesota leads to more pressure on tuition, fees and property taxes. … We found that the nine states with strict supermajority requirements saw total property taxes rise by an average of 22 percent, after adjusting for inflation, between 2000 and 2009. Property taxes in states without supermajority requirements for tax increases rose by just 13 percent.”

Another sky-high lifestyle bites the dust. Dave Hanners’ PiPress story on the arraignment of the so-called “Man in Black” bank robber includes this: “A Chaska man who’d been ordered to pay $1.6 million restitution for mail fraud has been charged in a chain of bank robberies that earned him the nickname ‘Man in Black.’ Mark Edward Wetsch, 49, made his first appearance before a federal magistrate in St. Paul today. The FBI believes he is the black-clad robber who held up 13 Minnesota banks from last March to Jan. 3. … Wetsch said little during his brief appearance before Keyes, but he did ask for a public defender. The magistrate asked him if he had a job or any money in the bank or owned any cars or a home or had any investments, and he replied that he had none. His destitution is a turnabout from the man who once owned a half-million-dollar home, a Corvette, three Jeeps, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, three snowmobiles and took golf trips to Scotland, vacationed in Hawaii and sometimes took a private running coach along on trips with his daughter, a college track and field star.”

Our hometown airline-with-a-heart, Delta, is considering shipping another 150 jobs down to Atlanta. Wendy Lee of the Strib says: “In a Jan. 24 memo to employees, the Twin Cities’ largest carrier said it is looking to streamline its stores unit, which stocks parts Delta uses to maintain its aircraft. The consolidation would combine MSP’s warehouse with the one in Atlanta, where Delta’s headquarters are. Delta spokeswoman Ashley Black confirmed the memo but declined to comment. Employees for the airline say there are about 150 workers in the stores unit. In the memo, Delta said the job transfers would save the company money.” Note to Delta: Have you considered charging passengers $25 for the spare parts?

At the conservative aggregation blog, True North, Dan McGrath lays into “the anti-integrity” crowd. “And that’s who?” you ask. Well … “When you’re taking flak, it means you’re over the target. By the extraordinary reaction by anti-integrity forces to the introduction of a Voter ID Constitutional Amendment, it seems that we’re very close to the target. It also seems that many groups are looking to protect the constituency of illegal voters and they’re pulling out all the stops. The anti-ID rhetoric is reaching a fevered pitch, with members of Isaiah (a radical left quasi-religious coalition) calling Voter ID ‘a devilish enterprise’ at a recent Capitol press conference. They’re holding rallies. The League of Women Voters is touring the state with a breathless (but completely unfounded) message about Voter ID preventing grandma, minorities, students and soldiers from voting. A letter to the editor campaign is in full swing and our opponents are getting 10 letters published for every one in favor of Voter ID. … Groups like the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Isaiah, the ACLU and NAACP are making ludicrous claims like 700,000 Minnesotans will be unable to vote if photo ID is required. They’ve engaged in this kind of hyperbolic speculation before, but when met with the challenge of proving their claims in court, their arguments fall to pieces.”

On that 700,000 being “unable” to vote. All I could find was this from James Warden at Hopkins Patch. “Beth Fraser, who represented Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s office at Wednesday’s hearing, said the changes could hurt more than 700,000 Minnesotans — noting that 215,000 eligible Minnesota voters aren’t registered to vote and as many as 500,000 people register at the polls on election day.” But hey, close enough for anti-government work.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Regina Seabrook on 02/28/2012 - 04:14 pm.

    Duluth’s Anti-Racism Campaign

    Perhaps a campaign that decenters (does not focus on) whiteness would be better. What does Duluth stand for? If it stands for closing the achievement gap and making an ongoing committment towards equity in education, healthcare, and employment, then I support Duluth. As a person of color and former Northlander, I appreciate the progressive spirit of my community of origin. How is that spirit harnessed in support of the things that save people’s lives like education, jobs, and affordable healthcare? I would much rather see people focused on these things than on the anger generated by the billboards. On a positve note, however, it gets a conversation going. If, however, no real and viable solutions exist in Duluth for closing the achievement gap and creating more equitable outcomes in the aforementioned areas for all, then the billboards serve as a nice smokescreen.

    This well intentioned anti-racism campaign has produced varied and even hostile responses. I think the Intercultural Development Inventory would be a great tool to use to understand these responses. I am certainly no expert on the IDI, but the little I know leads me to conclude that the people who run such campaigns need to decenter whiteness and develop a more inclusive strategy that focuses on what Duluth stands for.

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