Recent Articles

Judge Davis: a great legal mind


Black leadership: What’s the plan? Michael J. Davis, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, announced December 31, 2014, that he will step down as Chief U.S. District Judge, summer 2015, “but will remain active on the bench as a senior judge.” I have known Judge Davis for over 40 years, from when he joined as an attorney and commissioner on the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission (MCRC). We served as commissioners along with two other African American commissioners, also attorneys, Pam Alexander and Lejune Lang. These three are among the greatest legal minds of Minnesota. Judge Davis served nearly 21 years on the federal bench, seven as chief judge of the federal court of the Federal District of Minnesota. Continue Reading →

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Time for law enforcement to listen to criticism

MSR Editorial

The recent open letter issued by the police union presidents of Minneapolis and St. Paul (1/4/15) does not indicate a readiness to listen, but to lecture those critical of law enforcement (www.mpdfederation.com/police). Like police union leaders in New York City and elsewhere, their letter seems to make the same spurious claim that protests against police brutality and discrimination may have incited Ismaaiyl Brinsley to murder two NYPD officers. In light of protesters’ just anger over the killing of unarmed Black Americans, even suggesting such a link lacks respect for the communities that law enforcement serves. Protesters are as heartsick over the tragic death of the officers as anyone. Continue Reading →

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2015: a year of preparation


The word “preparation” is a sophisticated word. It means to prepare, develop, and analyze to get the best change plan to implement. The year 2015 will be an extremely interesting year as preparations begin for the return of the conservative right to control the White House just as the liberal left works to retain the White House. Which plan will resonate with people to get their vote? Will Democrats be ready? Continue Reading →

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Access is the problem

“Why are you looting? Why don’t you people get jobs and pay for things?”

“Well, I really don’t see it as looting, I call it gaining access, access that has been denied.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Have you seen the latest statistics, and are you aware that the wealth gap has widened? The median net worth of White households is $142,000 and the median net worth for Black households is only $11,000. Access, I have no access.”

“Get a job.”

“Do you understand what access means, access to wealth? It takes 13 median Black households and their net worth to equal the net worth of one median White household. Continue Reading →

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Cosby controversy: guilt by accusation


It doesn’t matter whether Bill Cosby is guilty as accused. He has been judged in the court of public opinion, which has jumped the gun, inciting a frenzied media lynch mob. He is serving sentence — paying penalties, anyway — to the tune of lost gigs, speaking engagements, and connection to at least one prestigious university where he used to be the cat’s pajamas. This all before having seen one day before a judge, all without, for that matter, having been arrested. Jill Scott, Whoppi Golderg and others who’ve dared to speak from the perspective of innocent until proven guilty have caught rabid, knee-jerk confrontation. Continue Reading →

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Year-end reflections of 2014:


A year of confusion and expectations

ThroughMyEyesnewSuccess or failure is in the eye of the beholder. The year 2014 has been a clear example of confusing differences of opinion and expectations. As we said in last week’s column, discussions of race are affected by the eyes of the beholders.

We offer three criteria: (1) the different versions of the golden rule of all the great religions, (2) the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights that is incorporated into the constitutions of most of the 148 nations in the U.N., and (3) as we wrote last week, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s double concern of nonviolence as the method and non-waiting as the practice for advancing human rights in the Civil Rights Movement. Not adhering to these principles hinders successful interpretation of issues of race.

The tragic assassination of two New York police officers of color has heightened tensions in New York City and around the country. Shifting emphasis to minimize or marginalize discussions of race hinders movements for civil and human rights. The key is teaching people how to fish (Nellie Stone Johnson’s “no education, no jobs, no housing”) and not preventing them from learning to fish, making them dependent on government and nonprofit organizations that, in reality, hold them back.

Two thousand fourteen is bringing other concerns to 2015. Will Republicans who will now control both houses of Congress work with the current president, or will they become more driven to obstruct and undermine, further weakening our democratic institutions as our strength comes from unity, not division? Our democratic institutions will be thoroughly tested. How will the beholding eyes of the future interpret the strides we make in 2015?

Will those strides include democracy, free thought and speech that allows us to debate civil and human rights for all, not just for a small controlling group? Who will fight to maintain history’s human right to witness interpretations of history that feature fairness, opportunity, and justice for all? Continue Reading →

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Finding home for the holidays

The Christmas season is a difficult time of year for me. I am always bothered by our culture’s egregious forms of commercialism, and its either lack of or anemic recognition of other forms for holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, and the celebration of the winter solstice during this season. Over the years, as I learned how other cultures celebrated their various forms of religious expression during this time of year, as well as learned that the underlying message of Jesus was the embrace and celebration of human difference and diversity, the less and less I have come to like this holiday season. Too often we see the glitz and glamour that this holiday brings, and we have totally missed its spiritual message. I truly believe if American Christians stayed more focused on the message and teachings of Jesus, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people would not have the annual angst of searching for home for the holidays. Continue Reading →

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Minnesota’s largest agencies have inequitable hiring practices

An Executive Order from Governor Dayton could eliminate them
People of color currently represent 18 percent of Minnesota’s population and their percent of the total population continues to increase. In Ramsey and Hennepin counties respectively, people of color represent 34 and 29 percent of the population. (See “Everybody In — A Report to Reduce Racial Employment Disparities in the Ramsey County Metro Area,” and Minnesota Quick Facts, U.S. Census Data.)
Unfortunately, people of color are often not “considered, groomed or selected for high-level positions because of “stereotypical views or unconscious bias.” They are less likely to receive crucial information about career advancement…[the] informal or unwritten rules of the workplace or information about job opportunities” (see 2013 EEOC African American Workforce Report, www.eeoc.gov/federal/reports/aawg.cfm). This concern could have been written about employment prospects for racial/ethnic minorities at Minnesota state agencies, where data shows that agency temporary appointments — those that serve as on-the-job training and informal advancement opportunities — are simply not available on an equitable basis to persons of color. Minnesota agency “work out of class” and “temporary unclassified appointments” can give individuals a temporary job offering experience, training and opportunity for advancement. Continue Reading →

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The issue of race will not go away

The issue of race will not go away
Protests continue across the nation Racial tension, despite predictions it would fade, increases in America, as seen in the marches and demonstrations coast to coast in reaction to grand jury rulings in Ferguson and New York Staten Island, along with a police shooting of a 12-year-old African American child within two seconds after police arrived. Continue Reading →

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