As a result of the September 15, 2011 meeting in Minneapolis of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, led by Commission Chairman Martin R. Castro, I predicted in my September 21, 2011 column that the Commission and its states’ advisory committees would continue their troubling pattern of benign neglect of the racial disparities across America in general, and in the Twin Cities in particular.
The Commission continues to practice benign neglect, as seen Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago, Harlem, Watts, and other cities at the center of riots in the ’60s and ’70s.
We thought the Commission’s Minnesota Advisory Committee would assist the public examination of issues confronting African American communities and report. I sat in on the extraordinary six-and-a-half-hour meeting. We were wrong. The information gained from the public — sworn testimony from a variety of experts on various civil rights issues — was kept quiet, as the Commission, City and local Black leaders didn’t want the people to know the awful truth.
The most dramatic and intense testimony that September 21, 2011 came from Mr. Robby Norman, Chief Operating Officer of Thor Construction, who blistered and challenged the construction industry, the City of Minneapolis, and the Civil Rights Department under Velma Korbel, who also sat as a member of the advisory committee. No wonder they didn’t want the information released. No wonder they didn’t want the community to provide oral or written testimony.
It became common knowledge that the administration of Mayor Rybak, including Velma Korbel and her Civil Rights Department, did not want the Commission information made common knowledge. Understandable. A nationally recognized consulting firm in Austin, Texas, examined the Minneapolis compliance data 11 months earlier, which reported the failure of contract compliance and enforcement of the Minneapolis civil rights ordinance.
Velma Korbel and the chair of the advisory committee made certain that the Rybak administration would not be embarrassed or scrutinized. The audio and video of that six-and-a-half-hour hearing at St. Thomas University Minneapolis campus has “disappeared.” Black lives didn’t matter then to the Commission or Ryback administration. “Doesn’t matter” holds for today as well.
We must stay vigilant to prevent the demise of the African American community and its dreams. Shredding of documents, “disappearing” audio and video tapes, falsifying numbers, are now seen as standard practices. That must stop. It has caused more than just despair and frustration. It has created dangerous anger within the African American community.
The U.S. Civil Rights Commission is accepting applications for the Minnesota advisory committee for replacements for those whose terms end in July 2015.
What we are looking for is a demonstration of Commission concern for such issues as:
- Expulsion and suspension of African American children from grades K-12.
- Poor education.
- Lack of economic opportunities and jobs.
- Limited housing options for African Americans throughout the state of Minnesota.
- Lost representation and voice in the political future of African Americans, especially at city council level.
- Stopping random and purposeful violence.
Too many “leaders” spend their time at DFL dinner parties, cheesing, bucking and winging and giving lip service to concern. If the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and its representatives in Minnesota will not review and take seriously their statutory responsibilities, they should be laid to rest and go the way of the American buffalo — extinction, now and forever.
It is important that we be concerned for the future of civil rights and for the future and safety of our children. This is not the time to play the fool in White Minnesota.