I’ve been thinking a lot about unity lately. One of the things that I always hear from groups whose goals are to help solve the litany of problems and disparities in housing, employment, drug abuse, and health that occur in North Minneapolis is that we must all work in “unity.”
Although it sounds good, the only thing that many people really seem unified in is getting rid of the people who have been there for years, to carve up the “new” Northside, and see who gets what.
The changes over North Minneapolis are accelerating at a fast pace. New businesses and housing are springing up all over. Streets are being repaired.
But these changes are coming at a price: higher rents and costs to buy a home. People who, a few years ago, wouldn’t have thought about moving to North Minneapolis, are now coming in droves. And they seem to be taking control of neighborhood associations, which drive the direction of what goes on in the neighborhood.
It’s well known that Minneapolis (and Minnesota, in general), has some of the worst racial disparities in the country. Despite all these groups of people working together in unity, it seems to be getting worse for African Americans. How can this be?
African Americans, on many important levels, seem to be falling behind other groups. Hispanics, Whites, Arabs, and Africans seem to be building businesses along West Broadway, and the other Northside business corridors. There seems to be a unifying principle among others who build up businesses that improve their people’s lives as a community.
When I go into buffet restaurants, I see Asians and Hispanics working together. No Blacks are working there. There is a Black-owned restaurant on West Broadway that’s constantly empty. But an Arab-owned restaurant down the street is always full of Blacks buying fried chicken.
I always hear that Blacks give bad customer service. Well, there is no worse customer service than to go somewhere to spend your hard-earned money, knowing that you will never see any of your own people there. Is another people’s ice colder than ours? Does their food taste better?
We have many Black churches over in North Minneapolis. But as Desmond Tutu said once, “In Africa, when the White man came, they had the Bible, and we had the land. Now, we have the Bible, and they have the land.”
Is our spirituality really so empty that we can’t build businesses and grow as a community together? Sometimes I feel like our people, as a collective, are like a great ship adrift at sea, without a rudder. We’ve made others rich, while we are starving as a collective — spiritually and materially.
Are there Black Minneapolis political leaders to advocate for us? They, in many cases, seem to work harder for others than they do us. I have no problem being in “unity” with others. I’m saying we need to have the same kind of unity among ourselves, not just in word, but in deed, as others seem to. Our survival as a people depends on it.
Can we really unify with others, if we aren’t unified in our spiritual and financial growth among each other? If we don’t start practicing practical acts of unity, we may be a doomed people.
I hope our spiritually will lead us into a place of action, where after we get done praying at church, we can go to a Black restaurant that employs Black people, get the service we deserve, respect each other, eat in peace without anyone getting shot, and go home to love God (however you see God), ourselves, our families, and neighborhood.
When we see the greatness in ourselves (and that others see, and many are afraid of), we’ll be better off together. I struggle every day to not only see greatness within myself but within others. It’s something I try to purposefully work on every day.
Let’s lift each other. Let’s make our unity a priority, then our unity with others will be more effective, not for just a select few, but for all African Americans and all mankind.
Darrell Coles lives in Minneapolis.