U.S. Christians need to reckon with white supremacy, and other articles

In this blog:

  • NPR: Author: American Christianity must reckon with legacy of white supremacy
  • The Intercept: Acting head of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management wants to subvert, end treaty rights
  • LittleSis: Fossil Fuel Industry Pollutes Black & Brown Communities While Propping Up Racist Policing

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Unelected Charter Commission poses a structural barrier to systemic changes in Minneapolis policing

It’s been two months since the Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd, a black man, sparking protests locally, nationally, and around the world.

This moment felt different. Black Lives Matter was getting broader community support. More people seemed open to a structural overhaul in Minneapolis policing. Minneapolis City Council members responded, approving a plan to eliminate the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) as a free-standing entity. It would replace it with a new Minneapolis Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, which could include police officers as part of its operations.

Now, the irresistible force of community demands hit the immovable object of political process. The hope for big change is teetering in the balance.

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How will the MPCA handle Enbridge Line 3’s water quality certificate? Minntac’s example is alarming

Part IV and last in a series exploring how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has failed for decades to enforce water quality standards against U.S. Steel and its Minntac mine in northern Minnesota.

Tribes, environmental groups, and concerned citizens won a victory recently, when the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) agreed to allow challenges to its proposed approval of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline.

To proceed with Line 3, Enbridge needs the MPCA to issue the project a water quality certificate. The agency had tentatively given the OK.

Public pressure got the MPCA to reconsider, and it ordered a contested case hearing. Administrative Law Judge James LaFave will handle the proceedings, expected later this summer. The hearings will allow intervenors — White Earth Nation, Red Lake Nation, Honor the Earth, Sierra Club and Friends of the Headwaters — to challenge the facts the MPCA used to reach its decision.

This is a significant win. The MPCA doesn’t seem inclined to use its regulatory authority to protect water quality. One troubling example is the MPCA’s failure in 2014 to use the water quality certificate process to force U.S. Steel to address ongoing pollution problems at its Minntac taconite mine in northern Minnesota.

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State Legislature has passed laws to undermine the MPCA’s ability to enforce water and wild rice protections

Part III of a series exploring how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has failed for decades to enforce water quality standards against U.S. Steel and its Minntac mine in northern Minnesota.

Minntac viewed from Mountain Iron

Making laws can be messy. We want to believe that the end result is democratic and fair.

In reality, we know that some groups have stronger political connections and more money, and that can influence outcomes. We need to know that we have strong political institutions that can provide balance, making sure sound science is followed, that Native Nations and other communities with less power get heard, and the public interest is best served.

The state of Minnesota in general – and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in particular – have failed to strike that balance when it comes to regulating U.S. Steel’s Minntac taconite mine, and other mining operations, and the water pollution they generate.

The MPCA has much to answer for regarding its ineffectiveness in regulating Minntac’s mine wastewater, but it’s also important to acknowledge that the legislature and pro-mining lobbying interests have undermined the agency’s ability to take a tough stand in recent years. Continue reading

Ways Minnesota’s white churches need to use their power and faith

Anahkwud Mihgiizay, Ajiijak Dodem (Wendy Stone)

A guest blog by Anahkwud Mihgiizay, Ajiijak Dodem (Wendy Stone), a descendant of some of the continent’s original inhabitants, the Chippewa and Peoria peoples. (She also is a direct descendant of Gouveneur Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and framer of the US Constitution.) Originally from Michigan, she now lives in Minneapolis. Ms. Stone volunteers for the Great Lakes Peace Center, Mask Movement (a response to the coronavirus) and water protection, environmental, and human equality organizations.

Churches of Minnesota! It’s time to use your might and faith for real change, embracing your values of love and justice. Right now. This is your moment, if you have the courage to challenge yourself and your members.

You cannot “support the good police officers” by continuing to defend the very corrupt and dysfunctional systems created by and for the police. It’s time to acknowledge the basic truth: The system has shown us time and again that it’s utterly broken. George Floyd’s murder is just the latest exclamation point.

Here are concrete ways you can act. The ideas below were put forward by people of color, leading other people of color, who have devoted years to dismantling the laws that perpetuate the cycles of brutality and protests. These are tangible, effective ways you can leverage your congregation’s position and influence. Continue reading

Charges brought in George Floyd’s murder, greater work remains around systemic racism, police reforms

Officer Derek Chauvin remained kneeling on Floyd’s neck even after another officer said he couldn’t find Floyd’s pulse.

Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in George Floyd’s death, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced today at a press conference. He expected to bring charges against the other three police officers at the scene who failed to intervene, but those cases are still under review, he said.

People not only want justice for Floyd but they want and deserve systemic change, both to address the underlying problems of structural racism and the long-standing problems at the Minneapolis Police Department that Floyd’s case represents. That work requires that we speak clearly and directly to explain the causes and conditions that led to Floyd’s murder. Continue reading

MN Council of Churches CEO calls for the arrest and prosecution of Minneapolis officers involved in killing George Floyd

Many organizations have released statements of grief, sadness and calls for justice in response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. The following comes from Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches.

(Full disclosure, Healing Minnesota Stories is an initiative of the Minnesota Council of Churches.)

Under the heading: “How long, O Lord,” DeYoung calls on faith leaders to press for systemic changes in policing in Minnesota. He calls faith leaders to push for the arrest and prosecution of the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck until he died, and the arrest and prosecution of the three officers who stood nearby and failed to come to George’s aid. Continue reading

Oklahoma’s new branding campaign hangs onto 19th Century mythology

Oklahoma launched a new branding campaign stunning in its 19th Century worldview and its failure to acknowledge the state’s Indigenous history and continued presence. It drew immediate rebukes. Here’s an eye-popping branding statement from the initial roll out:

This is a place that was built from scratch, made by people who gave up everything to come here from all over the world to create something for themselves and their families. We started this place with a land run in 1889 — and honestly, we’re still running, still making, still pioneering.

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The Song of Hiawatha, Minneapolis place names, and the hidden message of Manifest Destiny

Lake Nokomis (Grandmother Lake), Minneapolis (Photo: Wikipedia)

Significant Minneapolis place names come from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha: Hiawatha Avenue, Lake Hiawatha, the Hiawatha Light Rail Line, Lake Nokomis, Minnehaha Avenue, Minnehaha Park, Minnehaha Falls, and Minnehaha Creek.

The poem’s opening lines are fairly well known: “On the shores of Gitche Gumee, Of the shining Big-Sea-Water, Stood Nokomis, the old woman, Pointing with her finger westward … ” The poem is a fictional and tragic love story between Hiawatha, an Ojibwe man, and Minnehaha, a Dakota woman. A popular statue at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis commemorates the poem.

Less well known is that the Song of Hiawatha is a story of Manifest Destiny — the idea that white Europeans had God on their side and God’s blessing to take Indigenous lands and convert Indigenous peoples. Longfellow’s poem is a deluded fairy tale of how Indigenous peoples would gently give up their traditional customs and become Christians. It papers over the brutal realities of land theft, forced assimilation, broken treaties and genocide that was occurring during Longfellow’s day and have continued thereafter.

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