For more information contact: Catherine Thompson 651-296-5499
I strongly join the many voices in unequivocally condemning the racial violence, the attempt to sow fear and the political agenda of racial hatred perpetrated by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, NC this past weekend.
In a nationally organized effort, white nationalist groups from across the country – chanting Nazi era slogans and armed with weapons – invaded the campus of an institution of higher education, the University of Virginia (U.Va) in order to riot and attack students and others alike. One person was killed when a white supremacist deliberately drove a vehicle into a crowd of peaceful counter-protestors. Two law enforcement officers died while monitoring the ensuing chaos. The internet broadcast the horrific beating of a young African American man surrounded by baton and shield bearing thugs. A local church was surrounded by a mob carrying torches.
No, this is not an account of post-Reconstruction backlash in the South, or scenes of white citizens rioting in Chicago and Detroit circa WWI era, it took place in 2017 America by self-styled current Nazi’s and KKK members as well as other white supremacists.
It has no place in our nation. Our ancestors fought wars, died in them, to destroy Nazism and governance by racial supremacy.
And yet, as heroic and righteous as those American efforts are, our work was not completed then.
In the Civil War, Minnesotans - having had only recently achieved statehood - sent its sons to destroy slavery. We did this however, while also pursuing the destruction of Ojibwe and Dakota people. And Minnesota is the home of a lynching of African Americans in Duluth while also being the political home of Hubert Humphrey who led his party to a national platform for Civil Rights. We possess in Minnesota both the disposition for racism but also the vision for racial acceptance and harmony.
I, and the POCI Caucus, in the MN Legislature have committed ourselves to pursue legislation that is aware of our dark histories while also serving to evoke our “better angels” for racial justice.
I have dedicated much of my years as a state legislator and public servant advancing the cause of education in Minnesota. Part of what has moved me to do so is the understanding that knowledge is a key to countering racism and as such is vital to safeguarding our freedoms and our very democracy- here in Minnesota and across the nation.
But knowledge is threatening to racists, to those who seek to perpetuate white supremacy and privilege. I don’t believe it was a coincidence that those seeking to preserve systemic, institutionalized racism chose to terrorize a university - a place of learning, a place of nurturing leaders for a just and multi-racially inclusive democracy.
U.Va offers 11 Ethnic And International Studies Degree programs which seek to advance the knowledge needed to undo racism by furthering the academic identity and the skills of people of color and Indigenous peoples. In 2015, those studies conferred 411 Bachelor's, 18 Master's, and 23 Doctoral degrees to individuals pursuing this knowledge.
That’s a lot of knowledgeable people with self-agency to deconstruct American racism. That is a threat to the racist agenda.
Our own land grant university – the U of Minnesota – offers Critical Race & Ethnic Studies opportunities in 6 departments. Our MnState universities also offer ethnic studies. We need more! That will take new legislation.
We also need Minnesota’s E-12 public schools to offer ethnic studies as part of their regular curriculum.
Ethnic studies are important if America is to counter the resurgent tide of American white supremacy. It equips our citizens with the tools to realize racial justice. Our way of life, our prosperity, our safety is dependent on that outcome.
And because Minnesota will not be able to achieve that without quickly raising the number of teachers of color and American Indian teachers in our public E-12 schools to reflect the racial/cultural diversity of our students, I will continue my legislative efforts to help achieve that outcome. (Note: We will need an additional 15,000 such teachers in our public classrooms).
My prayers are with the families of Heather Heyer, H. Jay Cullen, and Berke M.M. Bates who lost their lives this weekend, as well as with the many others who were attacked and beaten by white supremacists.
I believe Minnesotans and all Americans are a better people than what was witnessed in the hatred of white supremacists at Charlottesville. By advancing race equity legislation, especially in education, we can realize being that better people
Rep. Carlos Mariani Rosa,