From our perspective here at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, based on what we have seen and heard over the past year or two, the African American citizens of Minnesota may at last be entering upon a new era of active social and political change. With all due respect to the local post-Movement leadership of the past several decades and all due appreciation for their persistent advocacy on our behalf, in our view this new era is long overdue and absolutely essential to move us past the present impasse of empty diversity talk and growing achievement gaps. We want to encourage it in every way.
For the last several decades most of our leadership, both elected and self-appointed, has played by the rules in advancing the interests of Black people and other communities of color in Minnesota. They have sat on the boards and commissions, petitioned the mayors and city council members, moderated countless forums, called periodic emergency meetings, delivered inspirational sermons, held street-corner prayer vigils for the fallen, written hundreds of position papers and reports. What all this has gotten us in the final analysis is the ugly distinction of being one of the worst places in the nation for African American people to live.
There will always be an essential place for calm, rational deliberation, for compromise, committee meetings, task forces, and foundation grants to study our problems. But it should be perfectly clear by now to everyone that this is not enough, that by these efforts alone we are slowly but surely losing ground year after year. Now is the time to stop the forces that will if unopposed drag us back into some twisted neo-Jim Crow. Significant change must come and it must come now.
This sense of urgency for change without further delay is one of the things we most admire and encourage in the rising new leadership. We have endured more than our fair share of rational planning and calm deliberation — now it is time to act. This imperative to act and act now manifested most recently in the occupation of the Fourth Precinct, and like most participants in that action, we view it as a successful demonstration that African Americans in Minnesota have asked for justice long enough. Now we are prepared to demand it.
It is also no secret, nor should it be, that African American women are prominent among the new leadership to which we refer. This is an enormously gratifying development, the immense power of Black women having been so long held in abeyance by paternalistic leaders of the past. A new day has dawned and our women are leading it arm in arm with men who can appreciate and welcome this new source of unity and power. We see great promise in our upcoming women leaders, as we see also in the growing ranks of other people of color and White Minnesotans of all ages standing beside us.
We at the MSR join many other seasoned civil rights activists in urging upon all new leaders and followers alike an appreciation for the power of disciplined civil disobedience as developed by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We urge nonviolent action only — violence only discredits our cause.
But if nonviolent action happens to disrupt business as usual, slow the flow of freeway traffic, force busses to be rerouted, make life inconvenient for shoppers, make life uncomfortable for some Fourth Precinct cops and the mayor — well then, they need to pay attention: Change needs to come and it needs to come now.
To the Minneapolis and St. Paul NAACPs, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis and St. Paul, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, the Minneapolis Urban League, Voices for Racial Justice, and all other organizations fighting not only against police violence but also for a rejuvenated North Minneapolis, more jobs, more affordable housing, better education and equal justice for all, we share with you in the spirit of solidarity these sentiments expressed by Dr. King in Montgomery, Alabama 60 years ago: “Whenever you take a stand for truth and justice, you are liable to scorn. Often you will be called an impractical idealist or a dangerous radical. Sometimes it might mean going to jail. If such is the case you must honorably grace the jail with your presence.”