The 1890 lynching of Italian immigrants in New Orleans gave rise to Columbus Day, the Pledge of Allegiance

President Benjamin Harrison declared Oct. 12, 1892 “Columbus Day.” The back story echos contemporary themes of racism, unjust policing, and media-stoked mob violence.

Harrison’s Columbus Day proclamation was intended to be a one-time thing, honoring the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Western Hemisphere. Columbus Day might never have happened but for an international emergency. Harrison was trying “to help resolve a diplomatic crisis with Italy — and gain support among Italian American voters — after rioters in New Orleans lynched 11 Italian immigrants” in 1891, according to an article in the Washington Post.

This first Columbus Day also provided the spring board for efforts to get children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in schools across the country.

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City of Minneapolis offers self-serving ‘Racial Equity Impact Analysis’ on proposed Public Works project in East Phillips Neighborhood

Backers of the East Phillips Urban Farm development held a press conference at City Hall Tuesday.

The Minneapolis City Council’s Policy & Government Oversight Committee will vote Wednesday afternoon on directing staff to move forward with its Public Works expansion plan in the East Phillips neighborhood, one opposed by neighborhood leaders.

The docket includes the city’s “Racial Equity Impact Analysis” for the project, something that assesses how it aligns “with the City’s Southside Green Zone policy, the City’s resolution declaring racism a public health emergency, and the City’s resolution establishing a truth and reconciliation process.”

The city offers a self-serving and weak racial equity analysis, raising questions about the city’s understanding of, and commitment to, racial justice.

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City of Minneapolis suppressed staff report favorable to the East Phillips Urban Farm Project

The city of Minneapolis inexplicably has kept a report from public view that would provide a win-win-win-win — for the East Phillips’ Urban Farm development, the city’s Water Works facility upgrade, the city’s climate goals, and the city taxpayer.

The report was leaked to the public, apparently some time last week.

The city’s Public Works Department issued a statement that the report was no more than “an informal, internally drafted report for contingency planning purposes only.”

Joe Vital, a South Minneapolis community organizer who backs the East Phillips Urban Farm project, said it was “disheartening” that the city suppressed the document.

It “puts into question transparency in this city,” he said. “If we are missing information at this level, it makes me wonder where else it exists?”

“It invites the question: Who is really steering this Hiawatha Expansion Project?”

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We are all witnesses

Screen grab of witnesses to George Floyd’s murder from police bodycam video posted by CNN.

I have been deeply moved listening to the Derek Chauvin trial, hearing eye witnesses describe their experiences of watching George Floyd’s murder and trying desperately to intervene. Perhaps you could feel yourself transported to the intersection, too.

I watch in awe as the people on the sidewalk, young and old, express their outrage, doing everything they could to plead, cajole, and shame the officers to save Floyd’s life.

Then I hear them in court, distraught that they didn’t do more. It’s heartbreaking, especially given the incredible courage they showed.

And somewhere in that reflection, it strikes me that I am a witness everyday. There’s racism all around me. And like those who stood on the sidewalk, I have the opportunity to act.

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PUC Final Order Approving Line 3 is Racist

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC’s) Sept. 5 final order approving the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline is disturbing. It ignores significant arguments brought forward by Native nations, environmental groups and youth, cherry picking facts to justify its decision.

The order has many flaws in how it addresses climate change, environmental risks to our state’s clean waters, and other issues that will be explored in a later blog. This blog focuses on the order’s racist conclusion that the PUC doesn’t need to consider the pipeline’s treaty rights impacts. Continue reading

Evangelicals Beginning to Take a Hard Look in the Mirror Around Race and Politics

There are deep rumblings within the evangelical movement, a movement defined for decades by being mostly white and politically conservative — and more recently, pro-Trump. The current divisiveness and political rhetoric has shaken some evangelical leaders to their core and they are questioning the ways they and their religious kinfolk are living out their values.

Perhaps one silver lining to the current political mess is that it’s so jarring that a lot of people are waking up, getting active, and questioning their reality in a way that might not happen if things were “normal.”

This blog diverts from past writings, which have focused on issues important to Native American communities (and educating white readers about those issues). Instead, this blog will focus more broadly on the issue of racism, the current political climate, and the self-indictment now emerging among evangelical Christians.

Consider two recent articles that stem from dialogue among evangelical leaders held at Wheaton, an evangelical college in Illinois and Billy Graham’s alma mater. Continue reading

Research Maps Out Racism, Poverty in Death Rates

Research published in Project Five Thirty Eight called: 35 Years Of American Death: Mortality rates for leading causes of death in every U.S. county from 1980 to 2014 maps racism and poverty’s legacy and ongoing impacts in today’s death disparities. It shows that health disparities show no party lines.

Rural Appalachia stands out; nine counties in Kentucky and three in West Virginia make the list. Rising cancer rates and increased deaths from substance abuse in Appalachia have kept mortality rates high there, even while overall mortality rates in the U.S. have gone down. After Appalachia, the region that features most heavily is the Dakotas. All of the counties in North and South Dakota in the top 20 [mortality rates] (Buffalo, Oglala Lakota and Todd counties in South Dakota and Sioux County in North Dakota) are entirely or almost entirely made up of American Indian reservation lands.

The Smithsonian article “Watch the Causes of Death Change Across America: The patterns highlight key social and economic issues in the country,” analyzes the Project Five Thirty Eight data, too, “Deaths tell an important story,” it says.

Health disparities tied to poverty, racism and poor education show patterns that bear the imprint of slavery in the south, Anna Maria Barry-Jester reports for Five Thirty Eight in a companion article where she explores some of the reasons for the patterns seen among black Americans, especially in the rural South.

The Project Five Thirty Eight map has a series of dropdown options. Start with “all causes of death” and the counties that stand out with the highest death rates per 100,000 include the Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, and Rosebud nations in South Dakota.

Choose the drop down option for “self harm and “interpersonal violence” and the pattern repeats for parts of Appalachia, Native nations in the Dakotas, and large areas of the western United States.

Project Five Thirty Eight takes its name from the total number of electoral votes in a presidential election: 538.

(Thank you, LeMoine LaPointe, for sharing this article.)