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2006 Columns
Quarter 4: October thru December ~ Columns #21 - #27

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December 27, 2006 Column #27: The Fifty Cent Solution: Our Review of 2006 in Minneapolis

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

First of all, we thank you, our reading audience for reading and sharing this column. If it were not for you there would be no purpose in providing the information, updates, and analysis of events in Minneapolis.

2006 was a 50 - 50 year. The election of Keith Ellison, of the 5 th Congressional District, to the U.S. Congress from Minnesota, the first person of color to be ever elected to the U.S. Congress from Minnesota, is a major highlight. He is also the first Muslim in all of the U.S. to be elected to the U.S. Congress. He puts Minnesota back on the map and re-instates our Minnesota image as a progressive state.

But unfortunately, there were far too many negative highlights.

One example is the loss of a $34 million contract, pulled by the City of Minneapolis, betraying and, thereby, creating additional economic hardship within the Black and Somali communities.

Another example is the denial of economic opportunity to African Americans by excluding them from the building of two sports arenas inside the City of Minneapolis.

Yet another example, very disturbing in 2006, is the startling increase in the use of deadly force by the Minneapolis Police Department against people of color, especially those unarmed. One of the most tragic was the death of Dominic Felter.

Equally disturbing was the demise of African American command leadership inside the Minneapolis Police Department. Within one day, the Rybak administration, through its surrogate chief, eliminated 30 years of arduous and dedicated efforts by the Black community and the Black Police Officers' Association to achieve some level of diversity, parity, and surface opportunity.

To the naked eye, "surface" means some effort at togetherness and opportunity, as you, the general public, will never be let deep inside of the organization to see the difficulties and reversals officers of color are exposed to.

Many celebrated Ralph Remington's election to represent the 10th ward of Minneapolis, seeing this African American City Councilman as a symbol of progress and racial harmony. But when Mr. Remington, during the course of a confirmation hearing for a new chief of police, asked some strong and aggressive questions, he found himself threatened and reminded that here, son, you follow the party line, no matter how painful it may be to your conscience nor how much it goes against the interest of your community and the people of your ward.

Many ambitious agendas are at play in Minneapolis, Black and white. Black leadership wants to offer Black people, particularly Black children, to the joint experimental laboratory being built by the University of Minnesota and Hennepin County that will probe the Black mind in order to move us in the "right" direction. Proposals are being made by the county for out of home placement, in order to manipulate Black children through a complex maze of corridors involving public branches of the city's white public jobs programs in the social services community, the research community, the education community, the public safety law enforcement community, and the ecumenical community. We have received no answers to questions we have raised about a project that appears to really be about profit and community control.

And so 2006 was a fifty - fifty year. On the surface, some things looked good and progressive, but deep within the corridors of decadence, nullification and reversal, powerful forces were and are at work undoing The Dream. It will be interesting in early 2007, as we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., in January, and Black History in February, to watch to see who will smile at us in one kind of encounter and, in another, attempt to push us over the cliff of nullifiation and reversal with their hand of betrayal.

All that we can do as Black Americans is stay vigilant and protect the future of our race by continuing to ask questions, develop plans, and support solutions so important to the survival of the race.

All of the columns of 2006 (as well as 2003-2005), are archived, along with our "Tracking the Gaps" web log, on our Minneapolis Story web site. We have summed them up by topic and column or blog number on the blog entry accompanying this column of December 27, 2006, on our web page,

For over 40 years we have worked to close the gaps between Blacks and whites in education, jobs, housing and public safety, particularly fighting for equal access and equal opportunities in education and jobs in the inner city.

We will continue to pull the covers back in our Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder columns on the great experiment here in Minneapolis, an outpost that has mastered the harmful political and economic machinery for keeping people of color "in their place" through inferior education (Col 3), denial of jobs in violation of compliance laws (Columns 12, 14, 15, 18, 22 and 2005 columns 8, 14, 22, 25), and the inferior public safety program that wars on our young Black men (Columns 1, 13, 14, 17, 20).

May you continue to be protected and blessed as we move toward 2007 and beyond.

Posted December 27, 2006, 3:10 p.m.

December 20, 2006 Column #26: When the facts disappear, Minneapolis-style. Neo-Nazi sympathies behind "day of infamy"

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Early Saturday morning, around 1:30 am, December 9, 2006, residents along the 3500 and 3600 block of Bryant Avenue North were awakened by gunshots. What started out as the dispersing of young Blacks turned into an ambush by neo-Nazi gunmen who opened fire on both police and Blacks.

For days, residents waited for news coverage. As of the writing of this column, five days later, all major news outlets have declined to report this terrorist activity that will live in infamy in the Black community.

Why infamy? Because of the nullification and reversal of how police respond to Blacks -- by shooting them. We have asked police to respond with maximum restraint until they are sure instead of shooting first and finding suspects unarmed later. Despite these White neo-Nazis firing on them, the police did not return fire.

Undisputed facts: On December 9, when White neo-Nazis fired on Black youth and police officers, the police response was no use of guns. On Wednesday morning, December 14, at the regular meeting of the Police Community Relations Council (PCRC), Police Chief Tim Dolan was asked by me, in my role as co-chair, pursuant to Article 2.28 of the Federal Mediation Agreement, if any critical incidents, including but not limited to public unrest, had taken place.

Interim chief's response: no use of truth. To our shock and dismay, he said there were no critical incidents to report, even though Deputy Chief Allen had been at the ambush scene.

More amazing facts/smoking guns: Senior Black officers (sergeant and above) were not made aware of this ambush that started with young Black folk being told in this incident to get out of the neighborhood. After police stormed the house on the 3600 block of Bryant Avenue North, the suspects fired on the police and African American citizens, shouted racial epithets, and displayed their defiance by threatening to kill police and African American citizens.

Yet, no shooting response. And, no follow-up media reports.

Thus, another disturbing smoking gun: The decision of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and all major media in this town to not report this attack of White neo-Nazis on young Blacks and the police. According to a reporter of the Star Tribune , the interim chief, when asked four days later about this ambush shooting incident, said it was false as no such incident had taken place, stating that this columnist didn't know what he was talking about.

But truth will out, as in this confirming smoking gun: Complaint #06344581, issued by the Hennepin County Attorney's office on December 11, charging two White neo-Nazi gunmen with terrorist and felony acts.

Part of the cover-up was the deployment of supervisors from the Second Precinct rather than the African American commander in whose Fourth Precinct the incident took place. And so, four days later, this African American commander had not yet been informed about this attack in his precinct.

In fact, this incident had been so closed down that, on the early morning of December 9, just six hours after the ambush, at the roll call of the Fourth Precinct, there was no information provided about the ambush attack. We have been absolutely startled by the cover-up and by the desperate attempt to suppress the threat now posed against police and African American citizens.

Despite the danger and risk to the department's own officers, the chief does not seem concerned about them. But we in this column are, just as we are certainly concerned about the African American community and the threat against its safety.

But sympathies for these neo-Nazis has won out.

Why "day of infamy?" Because the Strib and police want to maintain the myth that only Blacks are a danger to the peace, that White neo-Nazi guns don't really exist, as both paper and police obscure and distort rather than inform and report. It appears that this department needs to be placed in federal receivership after all.

Massaging the numbers at the MPD

In Thursday's edition of the Star Tribune , page B4, an interesting chart above the fold, entitled "Ethnic Diversity Among Minneapolis Police," claims that there are 145 sworn minority members who are officers of the police department: 61 Blacks, 37 Hispanics, 24 American Indians, and 23 Asian.

Like others in our community, we on the PCRC are puzzled why the quote of Interim Chief Dolan is a couple of months old. We also would like to know where 61 Black police officers are. We can't find that many.

An informative exercise at our January PCRC meeting will be to match a picture for all 145 officers of color. That should be very revealing, particularly given the number of Black officers that have left the department in the last six months.

If you get a chance, go back and take a look at the chart. Why do the police and the Strib work so hard to continue to lower their credibility? Federal receivership should be the order of the day.

Posted 12-20-06, 1:10 p.m.

December 6, 2006 Column #25: A Betrayal of LoyaltyIn the Matter of Alcee Hastings

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has decided to pass over popular Congressman Alcee Hastings for the powerful position of Chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Given as reason and trumped in main stream media, left and right, is his impeachment by the House of Representative in 1988 and approved by the all white Senate in 1989, removing him from the Federal Bench, despite that it was based on false testimony and that he had been acquitted by a Federal jury in Miami, Florida in 1983.

As Bill Clay writes, his is a "story of supreme triumph...the phoenix--unvengeful--rising from the ashes" to be elected in 1992 to the body that impeached him. And now, in 2006, betrayed by Pelosi, who has chosen to dismiss his proven innocence as well as dismissing his loyalty to the country, to the Constitution, and to the Democratic Party. We find it interesting that only yesterday, November 29 th , that a major newspaper reminded the world that an FBI agent had falsified testimony against Hastings.

And so Black America understands once again: so much for the democratic system of checks and balances.

In fact, the Department of Justice's investigation (by the now Governor of Massachusetts) of that agent's false testimony at the trial and at the impeachment hearings, raises some serious questions about some members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. But apparently Congresswoman Pelosi disregarded these ethical questions during her unethical action.

Congressman Hastings has been aggressively making the case for that top intelligence position with the full support of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. But Pelosi and others of the so-called Democratic leadership ignored the serious allegations of false testimony in their hearing, as reported in the 1997 report by the Department of Justice of Congress' role in the impeachment of then Federal Judge Hastings. Nonetheless, not so incidentally, no action was taken to re-open the case by the Clinton White House.

So once again, so much for the importance of facts when it implicates some of your political friends. What is troubling now about this Democratic Party Leadership (that includes support from the Clintons), is the leaking of information from a Hispanic Congressman from Texas that the Pelosi forces would further taint the Democratic Party's reputation by putting forth Representative Sanford Bishop, of Georgia, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, as a possible candidate. Note that Pelosi and her associates apparently "forgot" that they removed Representative Bishop from a position on the same intelligence committee in exchange for, at that time, Nancy Pelosi's very good friend, Representative Jane Harmon, Democrat of Califonia, who had earlier made an unsuccessful bid to become California's governor.

It is ironic, that in 2000, as the Congressional Black Caucus talked about the betrayal of that particular year, that it was Representative Alcee Hastings who was the voice of calm and reasonableness on behalf of Congresswoman Pelosi and her associates.

As early as October 2006, in our column in this paper (#21, November 8) and in our web log (#34, November 22), we warned that rumors abounded that a double cross was in the works, and that for all the patience, loyalty and hard work of the Congressional Black Caucus and national Black Democratic Party activists, that it was going to be business as usual, the "usual" part being Black folk getting the shaft once again. In fact, with Democrats and their betrayal of their Black friends, they don't even use lubrication any more.

A Changing of the Black Guard: MPD. In Wednesday, November 29 th edition of the Star Tribune, was one of those soft, watered down, powder puffed stories for which the Strib has become legendary when writing about the Rybak administration and, specifically, the new Chief of Police, Tim Dolan, in which the headline read as follows: "Dolan puts new managers in place." And then the story went on to talk in terms of who was "out" and who was "in".

Three who are out just happen to be Black. In fact the only demotions that have taken place are three Black Commanders and one white female. At least in the case of former Deputy Chief Lucy Gerold, she was only demoted one rank down, from Deputy Chief to Inspector of the Third Precinct. But Don Harris was knocked down from Deputy Chief to Lieutenant, and fourth Precinct Inspector Don Banham was knocked from Inspector to Lieutenant.

Also on his way out is Lieutenant Mike Davis. We'll save that for another column.

In closing, everyone agrees that officers serve at the pleasure of the Chief. He selects his team with allegedly no input from anyone. But those of us who have been long time observers of the MPD know that this is not true. Our question is: what did Harris, Banham and Davis do to cause them to fall so far out of favor? It doesn't have anything to do with the "new dawn" and less opportunity for Black police officers, does it? Stay tuned.

Posted 12-6-06, 7:02 a.m.

November 22, 2006 Column #24: The Dark Corridors of Deceit in Minneapolis City Hall

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

During the days of Prohibition, there was an understanding, very fundamental in nature, of how corruption and deceit operated. Illegal liquor and tainted money were spread around and identified as a new economic alternative for many different communities. And even within the Congress of the United States, prior to the repeal of Prohibition, there was always the argument that this new economic base "helps my people".

American citizens, grown weary of the violence of pistol packing machine gun firing thugs and hoodlums on the streets and the spread of their killings to citizens, not just fellow gangsters, resulted in Congress finally repealing Prohibition, eliminating that alternative economic base.
Today, sixty years later, we see a similar illegal, alternative economic initiative widely justified, more evil and more dangerous to our communities than Prohibition.

It is called drugs.

It is called crack.

It is called cocaine.

It is called methamphetamines.

It tears the very fiber of a community, incapacitating all who touch it, whether as distributors, sellers or users, and even those who give aid and comfort to this new, alternative economy.

In other words, not only are the thugs and hoodlums involved, but, as traffic is so lucrative, their enablers include law enforcement, the courts, big business, the counseling communities, and the ecumenicals. They all give sanctuary and comfort to those who would poison the minds and the bodies of the innocent. Unintended, it now spreads to the suburbs.

The drugs and attendant crime of this scourge could not occur without the enabling officials listed above, some because they do not understanding the political and economic big picture, and some because they do and want to eliminate the Black population.

And that is why, following the election of Nov 7 th , it was so troubling to hear newly elected officials, such as the Hennepin County Attorney, talk of another war on juveniles and drugs, which is code for Black juveniles. In this county, there is a disproportionate number of people of color that are those processed through the legal system and incarcerated, even though there are far more users who are White.

The obvious question is: how can this alternative economic base continue to exist in our communities? Ten years ago, the Congresswoman from California, Maxine Waters, gave a strong and resounding warning about the dangerous consequences of this alternative economy to our communities and its subsequent political consequences.

There is, of course, a strong moral question in play as well. White and Black community leaders who say they represent the moral high ground are silent and don't question institutions of authority, power, and law enforcement, about why drugs and weapons continue to disproportionately find their way into our African-American neighborhoods. And so, the hidden speakeasy of Prohibition has opened its doors wide to our streets, ravishing and violating our communities. We are dismissed whenever we challenge the real and true handlers and enablers of traffickers and gun running in America (the aforementioned institutions of law enforcement, courts, corporations, counselors, rehabbers, and ecumenicals).

Showtime's hit comedy series WEEDS, is about a suburban mom who turns to dealing marijuana to make ends meet. Acclaimed HBO show THE WIRE follows four Black adolescents navigating the drug-saturated streets of West Baltimore, making us wonder what happened to Minneapolis' commitment to equal opportunity.

I live in a city where police in the 4 th precinct toss the incriminating film from their squad car cameras onto the roof of the precinct.

I live in a city where the members of the Police Federation invite a Black City Councilman to breakfast and then tell him his life expectancy could be short. I was glad that Councilman Ralph Remington chose to go public with the threats made against him by members of the Police Federation (because he questioned the process and record of selecting the new chief designee). The Minneapolis Star Tribune suppressed (decided against printing) the threats against Councilman Remington, even though it had a copy of Councilman Remington's affidavit to the city council about the threats against him.

I live in a city where it is dangerous to raise questions about the poison and the guns infiltrated into our community to help destroy the foundation of our survival, our children, as well as all of us, regardless of age or gender.

I live in a city that places no value whatsoever on the life or importance of life of Black people.

I live in a city that maintains an area like hell.

I live in a city that talks about eliminating Blacks by any means necessary.

Sleep tight my friends, and pray not only for Black America; pray also for yourselves.

Viking update . Since we were last with you, the Minneosta Vikings have lost two more games. Think about it friends, you never lose to Green Bay inside the Metrodome. If that had been Denny Green, they would have strung him up from any light post on Kirby Puckett Drive. But we deal with each other differently when we are different. Get what I mean? This team will not make the playoffs. Stay tuned.

Posted November 22, 2006, 1:01 a.m.

November 8, 2006 Column #23: They patiently waited their turn

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Even though this column is being written before the election results of November the 7 th are known, most indicators suggest that the Democrats, for the first time in 12 years, will regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today have touched upon the historical first where, if the Democrats recapture the House, seniority would mean that as many as four African Americans would head powerful House committees particularly John Conyers of Detroit (Judiciary Committee) and Charles Rangle, the very respected gentleman from Harlem (the very powerful Ways and Means Committee).

The nation would also be looking at, for the first time in the Republic's history, a woman, Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco, as Speaker, in the #3 position in the line of succession behind President Bush and Vice President Cheney. So if on November 7 th the Democratic Party achieves a 15-seat swing to their side of the aisle, the leadership of the 110 th Congress will have a better complexion with respect to America's diversity.

We note that racism has raised its ugly head in the Senate races in Tennessee and Virginia.

As of the writing of this column, Harold Ford is slightly behind, as the Republicans pull out all the stops, using every race card imaginable.

As of the writing of this column, Virginia incumbent Republican Senator Allen seems to be slightly behind. He still talks as if he is on the plantation, displaying difficulty in referring to people of color.

However the Tennessee and Virginia races turn out, it is obvious that by late evening on November 7 th , America's political institutions will see some bright sunshine of a little or a lot of change, or they will see the dark clouds of nullification and reversal, at a time when war weighs heavily on the American psyche, and when government is not well trusted. America deserves to be dealt a better hand by both parties.

Some say peculiar things started with the election of 2000 and the election controversies that were not only in Florida but also in Louisiana and Ohio and in St. Louis and Chicago, where some alleged irregularities were seen as akin to a banana republic. Was 2004 better? We in Black America are not sure. There were still too many questions in states like Ohio and even again in Florida, that continue to wave the flag of suspicion in the face of the American voter and American institutions.

Some still say that neither the U.S. nor the Florida Supreme Courts have recovered from their decisions in 2000 that some have called constitutional interference.

But given how the Democrats have kept Blacks down in their place in America's inner cities, it is clear that we wouldn't have to wait our turn if we had Blacks in both major parties. Putting all our eggs in one basket has been a disaster for our young men regarding education and jobs.

Even so, as we move into the final days of this non-Presidential year election, there is much anticipation and much hope that those who respectfully and constitutionally waited their turn will enjoy election results that are a race and bias free. That will certainly silence critics who have a strong suspicion that the dream of the sons and daughters of he African will never be achieved. The Conyers, the Rangles, the Fords, the Patricks and the Ellisons have respectfully and patiently waited their turn with dignity and respect for the institution that they are encouraged to support and believe in. May God save this great nation, and may truth and integrity prevail on the occasion of this national vote.

Is the Viking ship going aground? Maybe that is not a fair question at this hour, but after watching one of the greatest embarrassments on Monday night football, the Minnesota Vikings, under Head Coach Brad Childress, lost 31 - 7 in their failed match up against the superior New England Patriots. It was if Tom Brady was toying with the Vikings Chorus Line, and could have scored 20 more points.

Now here is the reason for our concern in this corner. Childress was crowned a football genius. Brad Johnson was hailed as the greatest quarterback since Johnny Unitas. Visions of the Super Bowl danced in our heads. After all, hadn't the Viking organization done the right thing, getting rid of a lot of colored guys: Green, Moss, and Culpepper? Last year Patrick Reusse wrote in his column that the fans sense was that if you give us a White Quarterback and a White Coach (sorry, Mike Tice), we would return to the glory days of Bud Grant and Fran Tarkenton, as more intelligent ball players with the veins of the real and pure America would come. But whoops! The New England Patriots came to town and the bubble of Bilbo burst. Back to the drawing board. Reshape the heroes. Recreate the right kind of legacy. And we'll be on our way to the Super Bowl once again. Stay tuned.

Posted 11-8-06, 11:59 p.m.

October 25, 2006 Column #22: The New Members of Minnesota's Kremlin: Republicans as Oppressive as the DFL

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

When the Minnesota Legislature authorized the Metropolitan Council to take absolute control of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, some thought that was a good deal (and on paper it did look good: streamlining the operation of mass transit in the metropolitan area). For employees of color, their hope was that the system of racism and overt and benign neglect would come to an end, a hope that their concerns would be listened to, as the Governor appointed an African American to be Chairman of the Met Council.

But surprise, surprise. Welcome to Minnesota nIce. Welcome to the Minnesota Kremlin. Those of us old enough to remember know that the word Kremlin (now a museum) refer to the USSR and its top members and their policies of secrecy and oppression. We continue to report on this type of secrecy and repression wherever we find it to fight the obscuring and distorting by mainstream media and our governments when it comes to minorities.

It is our understanding in this column that Attorney General Hatch/Gubernatorial Candidate Hatch, was asked to intercede immediately (yet, so far we hear nothing from him).

In the Minnesota Kremlin, the baton of the dark forces of racism and nullifications, honed and perfected by the DFL, has been passed on to the Republicans. The Minnesota Kremlin of Racism remains the same. Different people wearing the old uniforms.

We are a nation founded on the notion that the government needs power but to remain democratic and preserve liberty there needs to be systems of checks and balances.

The most recent episode came to a head when a Democratic operative leaked a letter of protest from beleaguered and under siege African American employees of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (a doubtful act if the DFL was in charge). In a letter to Attorney General/Gubernatorial Candidate Mike Hatch, a very disturbing series of allegations and frightening and chilling illustration are reported of those who would abuse power and, in fact, the constitution of Minnesota. The Metro Transit Authority has told Black employees that the filing of any complaint that identifies racial bias, racial animus, or racial discrimination will be declared as frivolous and the employee will be discharged immediately.

The purge has been so ruthless inside the Metropolitan Transit Authority that African American employees have even been told that they will be discharged for wearing the wrong clothing or any garments that speak of Black culture.

In a policy statement given to union representatives, and to African American employees, the Metropolitan Transit Authority indicated that even having a discussion would be grounds for immediate dismissal. Imagine: not even free speech. In addition, African American employees were told that contact with Federal agencies or even the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, would be grounds for immediate termination. Not even redress is allowed.

The Metropolitan Authority went further by stating that representatives of Black advocate groups, such as the NAACP, or the Urban League, among others, who attempt to come on the grounds to discuss allegations of racial discrimination, will be met with armed force, will be charged with trespassing and will be removed from the property. And so they too remain silent.

Silence pervades from all the usual suspects: the Strib, city council, Governor and would be governor. That must mean all is well. Because they are all inside that high wall of white privilege that decides who gets access and opportunity, and for whom to apply the ideas behind words like fairness, justice, and freedom.

They think the Blacks have been put back in their place. But the local union, The Amalgamated Transit Workers of America, is understandably considering what legal action to take to protect the franchise of their members of color. After all, as the recent film "V" has put it, "people shouldn't be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people."

What we say in this column, is, as always, documented. Black transit workers, even as we write this column, are living in total and absolute fear of their livelihood and future. In fact, for any of you colored leaders who get that traditional phone call telling you not to rock the boat, and that this columnist doesn't know what he is talking about, at least have the intestinal fortitude to ask to see a copy of the letter to the Attorney General, and ask to see copies of the letter sent to African American employees, indicating that their employment and future employment is short term if they dare speak out or challenge this new policy of the little Minnesota Kremlin of Racism.

My, what a dark day in a state that professes to hold so dear and to cherish as so important the light of democratic values of Hubert Humphrey, Nellie Stone Johnson, Cecil Newman and Floyd B. Olson. How desperately we now need great voices like theirs of reason and acceptance (the plank of tolerance) and how sad it is that African American employees have to fear for their livelihood and their future. May God Bless America.

Posted 10-25-06, 4:38 p.m.

October 11, 2006 Column #21: We are a nation in need of prayer

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Tragic events in schools in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Wisconsin have brought us to our knees in grief, as more students and administrators become victims of rage beyond comprehension. Weak at the knees with sadness, we are reminded of what we said in this column a couple of years ago, that the moral compass of this great nation was pointed in a direction that threatens its moral fiber when individuals can perpetrate such evil and when too many look for ways to "explain" and make the perpetrators the victims.

Colorado two weeks ago was bad enough. It was almost like a second Columbine. After that came the tragic shooting in Wisconsin, and now in the Amish country of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

In the Amish community's one-room schoolhouse, seven young girls, ages six to nine, were shot execution-style. Five have died, their dreams and the dreams of their families destroyed, and the love of these families forever violated. It brings us to our knees in sorrow.

These are the angels of our communities. The valentine they get is like the 1929 Valentine's Day Massacre of Chicago in the 1920s, as these young girls were lined up against the wall and purposefully shot to death.

The shooter in Amish country was not a stranger. He was a member of the community; in fact, he was the milk man. But he turned out to be a human being who carried with him a rage of some 20 years standing. Allowed to fester, it erupted when he executed these small children in their classroom in front of their blackboard. What heartlessness and twistedness, the calling card of nightmares, as the demons of evil become the driving force of such purposeful violence.

The Amish community is to be admired for its tolerance and forgiveness that will forever be etched in the minds of Americans. I don't know, as a father, that I could have shown the tolerance and held the belief in forgiveness that the Amish community has shown as they reached out to the family and children of the perpetrator. That is a community of true love.

We still hold to the "dream" of Martin Luther King that America would become a special place for all, irrespective of slavery, religious bigotry, or any general or specific bias and discrimination. Martin Luther King maintained faith in the hope that all would overcome.

As we prepare this column, it is obvious that America does not yet enjoy that moral plateau, and that we must continue to work to achieve our cherished vision and dream of a nation of tolerance and, most importantly, a nation that values and cherishes the birth and growth and legacy of their young. Be it the shooting of the young in these schools or the shooting of our young in Minneapolis' inner city, we need to find and pass on to all a North Star compass that leads away from such shootings, whether done by kids, lone adults, or uniformed officers.

It may well be that in Eastern Pennsylvania, during the course of this savage deed, another part of America died a little. We felt it with Lincoln, say the historians. We felt it with Kennedy. We felt it with King. We felt it with Malcolm. And although you may not be a fan of any of the above, they all talked about the importance of humanity.

As Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Nellie Stone Johnson look down upon America today with tears in their eyes, they offer prayers not only for Lancaster County and the Amish community that has been affected, but for all America and for our own Minneapolis, as they pray that all come to understand the importance of children being safe in their communities.

All children should be viewed as having an inalienable right to move on down the road toward the future, and to enjoy the maturity that comes from growing older in life. We need to offer a prayer for this great nation, for a wreath of sorrow and a cloud of great shame hangs over us.

In the 1980s, Nellie Stone Johnson and I had the opportunity to converse with Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. He wrote No Future Without Forgiveness and headed South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. His sense of "A Theology of Reconciliation" is needed in the current firestorms in America and in Minneapolis.

As Tutu's book title declares, there is no future without forgiveness. He writes: "I am because we are. We belong together. Our humanity is bound up with one another... I learn how to become a human being through association with other human beings."

It remains our goal that all in Minneapolis be invited to sit at the Minneapolis Table. When we do that, we demonstrate our capacity to soothe pain, to foster dignity, and to dredge up goodwill from who knows where and still be gracious and accepting of one another as we keep our eye on the prize and remain true to the dream.

Posted 10-11-06, 6:58 p.m.

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his book, hear his voice, read his solution papers, and read his between columns “web log” at

Permission is granted to reproduce The Minneapolis Story columns, blog entires and solution papers. Please cite the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and for the columns. Please cite for blog entries and solution papers.

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