Other items of interest · Reading

Another Minnesota Shooting

The news that a Brooklyn Center police officer fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop Sunday afternoon haunts my thoughts this week.  There is a shocking dissonance in this spring time, this vaccination time, when we should be focusing on new beginnings as the sun shines longer, crocuses offer a burst of color and vaccinations rates are increasing, that we are once again facing the ugly underbelly of an unjust society.

Last summer, I was appalled by the sinful video footage showing George Floyd’s murder on a Minneapolis street.  After the death of so many black men and, as we know from the shooting of Breonna Taylor in her own home, the shooting of black women, I wondered, how can this happen?  With those first thoughts of outrage I wanted to place responsibility for what we as a society were becoming on the rhetoric of the past four years.  But life is not that simple.  I knew we did not simply become a racist society with the results of one election.  I recognized that it was only as the hateful rhetoric went viral and the incidents of violence against People of Color went virtual that I became increasingly aware of what is and what has always been a dramatic difference between my safe white environment and threatening world faced daily by People of Color.

I did take some hope that we may have reached a tipping point last summer as people across the world spontaneously marched.  White celebrities sat down with Emmanuel Acho for Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black ManLewis Hamilton wore a Black Lives Matter t-shirt on the starting grid and on the winner’s podium even as racers sprayed champagne.  And, Formula 1 cars now carry a #WeRaceAsOne logo as a visible display of a new “initiative aimed at tackling the biggest issues facing the sport and global communities – the fight against COVID-19 and the condemnation of racism and inequality.”

Over the past seven months, our Common Read at church delved into the hard and realistic truth that the injustice playing on our screens again this week is not new but is as old as the country itself.  As we read, we were reminded with each well crafted paragraph, each page we turned that injustice is deeply woven into the fabric of our society.  That violence happens every day.  We need only look to other April days to recall shocking events: 

  • April 1873 – A white mob massacred an estimated 150 Black voters over the results of a hotly contested gubernatorial election;
  • April 1956 – Four white men attacked signer Nat King Cole while he was on stage performing for a white audience;
  • April 1968 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

Earlier, I blogged about one of our Common Read titles, a powerful anthology, A Good Time for the Truth:  Race in Minnesota.  It is an eye-opening collection of personal stories shared by 16 Minnesota authors of Color that sheds light on life in our state and in our time.  In the book’s introduction, poet Sun Yung Shin, who edited A Good Time for the Truth, offers both a challenge and words to help guide us.

Good people need to take action continuously, and I would say daily, until [racism] is dismantled.  Because lives are at stake, every day; on sidewalks, in doctor’s offices, in the waiting room of the bank, and, most importantly, in classrooms.

I believe we can do it.  I know I am not alone in this conviction.

People of color and Indigenous people know with a specific, agonizing intimacy that racism was constructed and upheld by white society (in spaces such as the police precinct, the courtroom, school board meetings, newsrooms, Hollywood studios, mortgage loan offices, and everywhere power has resided in America) in order to confer unearned advantages on white people.  It is as simple as that.  It’s not a law of nature.  It’s culture.  It’s something we made, invented, maintained.  Since it was made, like a vast machine, it can be unmade, and it must. ...

Change is necessary.
Reading

When life interests intersect …

Throughout my library career I advocated for the Minnesota Center for the Book and the Minnesota Book Awards.  I’ve booktalked Book Award nominated titles and represented Greater Minnesota on the Book Award Advisory Committee, as well as attended receptions at the Library of Congress to celebrate the work of Centers for the Book around the United States. 

So I was excited to learn about a new book club – One Book / One Minnesota.  Launched in the spring of 2020 as Minnesota went into Covid quarantine and libraries closed their doors to walk-in patrons, One Book encouraged Minnesotans to read together.  The three titles selected thus far feature award winning Minnesota authors:

  1. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  2. A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota edited by Sun Yung Shin
  3. A Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich.

A blending of reading good books by Minnesota authors and retirement life came together last night as I led an online book discussion of A Good Time for the Truth.  This anthology contains 16 extremely well written chapters, each by a different Minnesota author, each a Person of Color living and working in our state.  Artfully edited by Sun Yung Shin.  The first lines of her introduction reads:

You hold in your hand a book of visions.  Memories.  True stories.  Shock.  Grief.  Dreams.  Activism.  Recognition. A call for us to listen and learn about one another’s real lives in Minnesota.

While the setting and many of the references are Minnesota specific, the stories are real whether they occur in Minneapolis or Minocqua, Rochester or Rockford or any city, USA.  Stories which reveal how those who look like me – white, middle-aged, educated, financially comfortable, that is to say privileged – take for granted our place in this white patriarchy.  Or, conversely as Sun Yung Shin states:

Most people of color in the United States have to think about race every day, multiple times a day.  We are constantly negotiating our bodies, our selves, our identities, in a racialized society.

These stories are so well written and revealing that I could only read one at a time before setting down the book and taking time and space to reflect, sometimes to cry, about the injustices and inequities to which I was blind.  This same sentiment was expressed by several participating in our church’s Common Read book discussion.

We are living the great American democratic experiment.  But for it to be truly successful, all the voices need to be heard.  Those Indigenous People with whom our government has repeatedly broken trust.  Those whose ancestors were brought here against their will chained in the holds of slave ships.  Those who came to this “land of opportunity” for a myriad of reasons and every day enrich the whole of our existence but whose contributions are minimized because they are different.  I encourage you to pick up a copy of A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota.  Read with an open heart the beauty of the language on the page and hear the stories of fellow Americans. After, give me a call or an email or a text so we can chat as we grow and learn together.

P.S. If you want to hear some of the authors in their own voices, check out this One Book / One Minnesota YouTube video with Sun Young Shin and six of the anthology’s authors.