St. Cloud: No MN community has paid a higher price for its pathological racism

According to St. Cloud (often ridiculed as “White Cloud”) authorities, local police, witnesses and the St. Cloud Times, a racist White male and his girlfriend, possibly a woman of color, assaulted a Black man for simply parking on their street.

Witnesses told police the racist man attacked the Black man first with a bottle causing facial lacerations. Then, he continued to attacked by swinging a large strap with metal hooks, charging at him with an ax, running him over with a truck and threatening to hang him from a tree – all while yelling racial slurs.

“We are taking into consideration the race-motivated aspect of this crime with respect to sentencing,” said Assistant Stearns County Attorney Kyle Triggs in a press statement last week. “That could play a role in increasing the sentencing, dependent on the court and jury.”

Since details and facts are so often blurred to distract attention, minimize and/or sanitize “White Cloud’s” historically racist environment, it can be helpful to readers of color to consider previous headlines — particularly those from the St. Cloud Times. The paper began as Minnesota’s first and only pro-slavery propaganda source (1856-1861) before evolving into what it is today.

Examples of such damning headlines describing St. Cloud’s pathological racism include the following from 2006 and 2007, when hate crimes escalated in response to Black community influx: “St. Cloud’s racism is a long-looming storm,” Minnesota Public Radio, 4/27/2006; “St. Cloud State University: ingredients for a racist stew,” Minnesota Public Radio, 5/10//2006; “Few willing to challenge St. Cloud’s entrenched racism,” Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, 7/26/2006; “Is it safe to send our children to St. Cloud?” editorial: Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder 2/7/2007; “St. Cloud tops state in hate crimes, but some dispute methodology,” Associated Press, 11/24/2007.

After the claims that St. Cloud was the “most livable city on the planet” were ridiculed by a City Pages reporter (“WTF: St. Cloud could be world’s most livable city?”), leaders panicked. Even City Hall’s promotional denial bombed. (“St. Cloud: City’s ‘livable’ DVD contains profanity,”TwinCities.com, 1/27/2011)
With so much bad press, St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis and his City Council decided changing the city’s logo and motto might distract attention from the community’s racist reputation. Four public relations firms were employed to help change brand/image for St. Could State University (SCSU) and the city, including Stamats Higher Education Marketing, Earthbound Media Group, The Lakota Group and Next Communications. As expected, their promotional strategies ignored racism.

If you think reports of “White Cloud” racism were scathing several years ago, the FBI, national and state news media reports imply conditions have worsened significantly since 2010. However, local leaders, particularly Mayor Kleis, City Council member Jeff Johnson and House Representative Jim Knoblach and the St. Cloud Times defensively claim, “National, state media types get it wrong on St. Cloud.”

As data results from FBI lists ranked “White Cloud” tops for Minnesota hate crimes – paired with humiliation and ridicule from studies by Aspen Institute’s Roundtable on Community Change and Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity — there was more panic at St. Cloud State University/SCSU presidents’ office address and City Hall.

Even the reliably protective St. Cloud Times’ headlines revealed concerns: “St. Cloud must overcome identity crisis,” “What can be done to eliminate the label ‘White Cloud?’” and “Will historians look back on a diverse or divisive St. Cloud area?”

For Blacks and others of color considering education or jobs with residency in “White Cloud,” the news headlines below describe a few of many race-based attacks during the last two years: “St. Cloud PD: Man showed knife, uttered racial slur,” WCCO, 2/28/2017; “Cab passenger charged with hate crime, assault of Somali driver,” St. Cloud Times, 4/6/2017; “Arrested for openly carrying an assault-style rifle, St. Cloud man sues,” Associated Press, 5/6/2016; “Update: Girl stabbed at St. Cloud Walmart,” WJON Radio, 4/20/2017; “Teen says man who stabbed her in Walmart is a stranger,” US News 4/21/2017; “St. Cloud man accused of attacking 2 men with fork causing minor injuries,” St. Cloud Times, 4/30/2017; “St. Cloud man sentenced in racial bias hatchet attack,” WJON Radio, 8/23/2017; Complaint: Machete used to threaten man; and St. Cloud Times, 9/9/2017.

No wonder SCSU has grudgingly confessed to losing at least “5,266 students” – one-third of its total enrollment since 2014. And, one can easily understand why U.S. departments of civil rights, education and justice, those “national and state media types” continue to expose, humiliate and ridicule “White Cloud.”

Myrle Cooper is a retired faculty member at St. Cloud State University. He welcomes reader responses at coopermb1976@gmail.com.