Michael Baker, a white man with 25 years of exemplary service with the Minneapolis Park System, is being fired for hiring Black Americans instead of being made manager of the Theodore Wirth 18-par golf course and its par-three nine-hole course.
I grew up playing golf on the 18-hole Theodore Wirth golf course beginning in 1959. I’ve seen managers come and go. I was part of the battle to integrate all aspects of the park system, including golf course maintenance personnel and its police department.
This newspaper ran a number of feature stories about the suffering and abuse of the Minneapolis park system’s Black employees several years ago. Leadership in this city, Black and White, did nothing regarding this growing cancer of racism.
So now, Michael Baker, a decent human being, a 25-year exemplary employee, a White man, tried to do the right thing on behalf of Black Americans. Whites applaud his firing. Blacks, by remaining silent, do so as well.
The park board posted the notice of Mr. Baker’s job being available before they let him know they were going to fire him. If this pattern continues, Black employees, male and female, will be removed from their positions of responsibility and authority, bringing out of the shadows the standing racist policy that is business as usual.
Mike Baker was sabotaged and fired because of his commitment to diversity and integration, déjà vu all over again. Black leadership enabled and facilitated the White leadership’s purposeful discrimination and violations of civil rights statutes, and then stood by mute, without protest.
Thirty years ago, my very good friend Danny Davis and I filed a discrimination law suit against the Minneapolis park system because it would not hire Black Americans. The result: we were appointed to a committee with oversight of the park system that lasted 10 years. Under our oversight, they hired African Americans. They now want to reverse.
When the park system started to hire African Americans in its golf system, Blacks were not allowed to physically handle money nor make purchases. It took 10 years to correct that. It is time young Americans, Black and White, learn and understand this history.
Thus, Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis Branch of the NAACP, was mostly accurate when she accused the park system’s White leadership of having one of the most aggressive levels of racism of all the various units of Minneapolis government. The Minneapolis park system’s charter provides for it to be separate from other City of Minneapolis activities (taxation, bonding, its own law enforcement department), and yet it is lapsing back into being a racist empire unto itself.
Its decision to remove Michael Baker was not because he did not have a four-year college degree as alleged (after working there for 25 years?), but because, simply put, Mr. Baker is a White man making park system Whites uncomfortable by hiring Black Americans for positions of authority and responsibility.
I have supported civil rights causes for over 50 years. Handkerchief heads that say the park system is okay segregated, need to be dismissed if they hold onto that belief. The question for both Whites and Blacks is this: Are they contributing to making a meaningful and prosperous community or a painful and poor one?
We must stand up for the community, but not for the “good people” when they do bad. And we must encourage “bad people” when they do good. Will the confrontation between the president of the Minneapolis NAACP and the chairman of the all-White Minneapolis Park Board end well or badly? Which lives matter?
For Ron’s hosted radio and TV show’s broadcast times, solutions papers, books, and archives, go to www.TheMinneapolisStory.com. To order his books, go to www.BeaconOnTheHillPress.com