Monday, October 13, 2008

This Kind of "Minnesota Nice"

My family moved from the Midwest five years ago. One of the biggest reasons we left aside from the insanely long winters and the steamy mosquito infested summers is the racism just like the racism exhibited at Lakeville High School by a good old nice Minnesotan last Friday.

See, folks in Minnesota pride themselves on being nice. And lots of them are. Like news anchor Belinda Jensen, come on, she really is nice.

Of course there are folks like former pro wrestler and actor Gov. Jesse Ventura who never pretended to be nice. Believe me, I had his "people" on the phone once when I worked for an airline. Not nice, but hey! He isn't pretending to be.

But even as people in Minnesota are staring at us; and me and my husband, the freak mixed race couple with our freak children, they still believe that they really are "nice".

When they're asking my husband "No where are you REALLY from?" and "gosh you hardly have an accent at all?" They just say "oh well, ya know, we just weren't raised with people like him." People who aren't like them. People who aren't white.

Apparently, being of middle eastern descent is just about the worst thing someone can be according to this woman speaking in the auditorium of the high school in the next town over from where we lived. In her mind it certainly is grounds for fear.

Understand this; Lakeville, Minnesota is not a small town. It's a suburb with bix box stores and housing developments and house farms up and down the rolling hills. I know there must be folks who go to my old congregation who are from Lakeville. They must be shaking their heads. Maybe they're shaking their fists in frustration. God, I hope so.

What has to happen for those of us who stand on the side of love? What do we do with hate and fear like this? What we have to do first is to decide as a country that there is a difference between being nice and being good. We need to see that sometimes to be good we have to be anything but nice. Say it, say the truth. Racism. That woman is motivated by racism. She is racist. And so are a lot of other "nice" folks in Minnesota. They still stare at us in the aisles at Cub foods just down the street from Lakeville High school.

Stop them from whipping up the fear. Stop them from whipping up the racism. Speak to the truth. The truth of race.

We in our halls need to call our ministers of color, we need to hire what we believe. We need to stand in the white privilege some of us benefit from and name it. But more than just in our halls. In our streets, in our communities, in our High School auditoriums stand.

I hope this woman is being confronted by her fellow church goers, the Christians, the ones who are supposed to be like the traveler from Samatria who help those that others say are unworthy. I hope she's being asked hard questions by her neighbors and her grandchildren. And I hope that in the divine intervention of all, that her favorite granddaughter falls madly in love with a man with an Arabic name. Or better yet, a woman with an Arabic name and that she converts to the kind and peaceful Islamic faith. And lives a good life.

Not a nice life. A good one.

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