A Muddying Maelstrom of Misinformation

The storm of disinformation coming out of the Trump White House is so thoroughly disorienting that I’m afraid we’re already losing track of where we’re heading, how quickly things are devolving, and how serious is the threat to our democracy.

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On Empathy

t's been a while since I've written here. I'm writing tonight. There is already much hand-wringing and deflecting about what led to the election of a B-list reality star to the highest office in the United States. I need us to be very clear on what happened. This election is on White people. My people.

No, not "working class" White people, or "blue collar" White people. Trump won the White vote across the board. Trump's voters don't share an economic class. They share Whiteness. And I share that with them. I and all of White America is complicit in this result. We did not fight hard enough to prevent it. I did not fight hard enough. I am sorry.

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"...shall not be denied or abridged..."

On Friday, the Editorial Board of the Star Tribune acknowledged that “Felon voting bans have a racist past” and called for Minnesota to “be a leader among the states in discarding voting laws that have a racist past and that are producing a racially disparate result.” On Wednesday, April 27th, high school students across Minnesota are bravely planning to walk out of classes to protest Republican Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt’s refusal to let a allow a bill already passed by the Senate to be debated in the House. 

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An Official Narrative, Built on Sand

I'm honored today to be able to share a different kind of piece for QTP.  The following is a guest post by Rachel Wannarka and Jason Sole, of the Minneapolis NAACP.  In this post, Wannarka and Sole meticulously refute the narrative put forth by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in his rationale to bring no charges in the killing of unarmed Minneapolis resident Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police officers.


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Dominant Narratives, White Media, and Jamar Clark

In theory, local media strive to present the news in an "objective" way to the public.  But when that media and its prevailing orientation is so overwhelmingly White, its coverage is anything but "objective."  This White bias has been painfully true of local media coverage of the killing of Jamar Clark and the ensuing protests.

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Yesterday, the StarTribune ran an "op/ex" by Mitch Pearlstein called "Racism in Schools is Overstated."  But wait, I know that title's bad, but it only gets worse from there.  After declaring that racism against people of color is much overstated, Pearlstein proceeds with a factless screed FULL of racism against people of color.  If you're looking to acquire as much racism per paragraph as you can find, this piece is a really great value.

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In Some Future's Past

I'm currently in the middle of Gilbert King's Devil in the Grove, a book focusing on Thurgood Marshall's involvement in a case of the alleged rape of a White woman by four Black men in Groveland, Florida in 1949 and the ensuing terrorism by White people of the local Black community.  I highly recommend it.  In addition to providing an eye-opening narrative about racial terror in America, the book also provides incredible details on the life and career of Marshall and his work at the NAACP.


When I consider current systems of power and oppression, I try not to think of myself as living in some modern, enlightened time.  Thinking our current times enlightened inevitably clouds our judgment and muddies our views of current injustices. 

Instead, I try to imagine myself living in some future's past.  And I try to imagine what the clarity of time will have the people of the future saying about those of us living in the history of today

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Policing school policing

Yesterday, a video of a "school resource officer" brutally attacking a peaceful, seated child in a South Carolina high school spread all over the internet.  Responses have, rightly, condemned the horrifying, racist, terrorism that White officer Ben Fields so easily deployed against a Black student.

All of this is deserved.  Officer Fields should be terminated with prejudice, and potentially charged with a crime.  

But what surprised me yesterday was that so many people seemed to be surprised that physically violent policing existed in schools at all.  This incident was horrendous.  But if the fact that there are school police roughing up Black, Brown, and Native kids across the country came as a surprise, then this is an issue that needs more attention in the movement to dramatically reform policing.

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We, the White People

Like so many other forms of injustice, educational inequity may be a multifaceted reality.  But it is not mysterious.  Putting the lie to the idea that explanations of educational oppression are ephemeral and elusive is crucial.  Educational oppression is a form of racism and classism.  And it is done on purpose.  More of us need to say so clearly, without equivocation.

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"Where is the outrage?"

Over at the StarTribune, columnist John Tevlin has a piece reflecting on what has and hasn't changed in the year of protests since Michael Brown's killing.  He interviews Minneapolis NAACP president Nekmia Levy-Pounds, who he finds, understandably, "emotionally exhausted."

Then he interviews Minneapolis Police Officers Federation President Bob Kroll.  When Tevlin asks if Kroll thinks that protests have had any positive impact, Kroll unsurprisingly responds, "Not at all...It's been destructive.  I don't think an increase in attention or more videos are going to do anything."

But then he takes it one step further.  Seemingly unprompted, Krolls says, "If black lives matter, where are they when a black person kills a black person?  Where is the outrage?"  

It's hard to imagine a more cliche White response.

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Time to Talk

A couple months ago, when @nettaaaaaaaa@samswey, and @deray launched their national collection of police contracts called Check the Police, I started looking at the contract between Minneapolis and its Police Officers' Federation (pdf).  One of the first things I noticed was that the contract was effective for the period of January 2012-December 2014, meaning that a new contract must be forthcoming.

I started doing some casual amateur researching and realized I couldn't find anyone talking about this.  Nothing on negotiations or even anticipating upcoming talks.  But last week, I finally made some progress.  I reached out to a staff member in my City Council Member's office, who spoke to someone in Chief Harteau's office, who confirmed that the Police Department is currently operating under the old contract and that they are "just starting new contract negotiations."  Those negotiations are not public, and the plan is to post the new contract after it is finalized.

So the headline is that if there are things members of the public think are important to be addressed in the new contract, the time to advocate for those things is now.  Like, right now.

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Honoring the Confederacy, in Uptown Minneapolis

In the wake of the White supremacist terrorist attack in Charleston, SC, there have been an increasing number of calls to remove the Confederate flag from all state grounds.  Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a very compelling post on the subject.  In fact, if you haven't read it yet, stop now and click over.  Then come back.

I'm glad for the building effort to take down the Confederate flag.  It is a symbol of White supremacy and terrorism against Black people.  It has no place in our society.

But one of the things that's annoyed me in watching this growing movement is the self-righteous sectionalism of lots of White people who live here in The North.  "Can you believe they're STILL fly that flag?" the chiding goes, "it's so obviously a symbol of hate.  How could they do that?"  

Well, fellow northerners, it's time to take out that mirror again.

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A Long Look in the Mirror

The ACLU this week has released a case study on policing in Minneapolis.  The analysis of data is thorough in its scope, and compelling in its conclusions: the enforcement of the law in Minneapolis is profoundly racist.  You truly must read the entire thing.

In addition to its analysis of arrest data, the report puts forth a lengthy list of recommendations for improvement.  The recommendations are all important.  But it's what was missing from the recommendations that caught my attention.  While there are recommendations for addressing the manifestations of the racism of White people, the report makes almost no recommendations for addressing the White people themselves.  In other words, the recommendations are almost exclusively focused on structural racism.

Similarly, in reaction to the report, I've seen a steady stream of sanctimonious White people leap aboard their high horses to condemn the police department, with no concomitant condemnation of our own complicity in that system of policing.  So I'm calling on myself and my fellow White folks to dismount those horses for a minute.  Because this system, which so many of us are decrying, is ours.  

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About that "Miracle"

An article was published on the Atlantic’s site yesterday called The Miracle of Minneapolis.  The post, written by Derek Thompson, lauds the Twin Cities metro area for its success in the areas of education, social mobility, affordable housing, tax policy, and water-power-harnessing, to name a few.  

The claim that the Twin Cities are, and have been, such dynamic places to live is likely to ring hollow to at least one large category of Twin Cities residents: people of color.

Indeed, within hours of Thompson’s post going up, critics on Twitter began to point out, rightly, that for people of color, life in the Twin Cities is, and has been, a far cry from miraculous.

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Justice and the Law, with MOA in Between.

By now you know that the city of Bloomington, Minnesota is choosing to prosecute organizers of a #BlackLivesMatter demonstration at Mall of America on December 20th.

I was there.  The demonstration was entirely peaceful.  Yet the mall and the city responded with ludicrously disproportionate force, including swarms of police officers in riot helmets and Orwellian electronic messages on giant screens.  Sandra Johnson, the City Attorney for Bloomington, not only wants to prosecute organizers of the event, but to try to recover money to pay for the city’s paranoid overreaction.

After the charges were filed, I decided to go back and watch the Bloomington City Council Meeting from January 5th, the day demonstrators came to plead with the city not to prosecute organizers of the demonstration (you can watch all the archived meetings here, which, incidentally, is a really great civic service).

That meeting was an incredible microcosm of cooption, marginalization, and privilege.

The Council meeting began—and I’m not making this up—with an official proclamation honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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Beyond KSTP

I’m not even going to bother starting with “by now you’ve probably heard…” and the traditional follow-up summary of the facts to date.  You know about #pointergate.  Everyone does.  And there are plenty of great stories out there about it.  Check out Shaun King’s if you haven’t read it already.

Much of the commentary I’ve seen has focused on KSTP, Jay Kolls, and the media side of this story.  And well it should.  The initial story Kolls reported, which KSTP editors apparently thought was a-ok and anchors Bill Lunn and Leah McLean had no problem teasing, was incredibly racist.  And not only did KSTP not retract the story, not only did they not fire Jay Kolls immediately, but they trotted him back out the next night to double down.

Lots of people have been working hard to hold KSTP and Jay Kolls accountable. SEIU Local 26 President Javier Morillo wrote a compelling piece explaining why he’ll no longer appear on KSTP and providing concrete steps all people can take.  Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) has started a petition—take two minutes and go sign it now.  And there was an organized effort to call out KSTP’s unacceptable behavior to its commercial advertisers.

We should support all these efforts, and more, until KSTP apologizes and fires Jay Kolls.

But we need to make sure that while we’re doing that, we’re also keeping a clear, unwavering focus on the Minneapolis Police Department and the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis.  For me, what #pointergate is confirming about the media is deeply problematic.  But what it’s confirming about the police is downright terrifying.

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Minnesota Genderbread

In today's Sunday paper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an ad from the "Child Protection League Action," or CPLA (and no, it's not just you--the syntactic construction of that name makes no sense).

There are (at least) two distinct problems with this: the ad itself, and the Strib's decision to run it.

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The Premise

I don't know how to start a blog without the self-evident declaration that I'm starting a blog.  So here it is: I'm starting a blog.

My name is Mike Spangenberg.  I'm a white guy from Minneapolis.  I'm 34 years old, married, and have a three-year old son.  I have been working in education for over a decade, including as a classroom teacher and administrator in both traditional district and charter schools.  But there will be plenty more time to talk about me.

In this space, I plan to write about the things I spend my time thinking and talking about.  I'll write about race, class, identity, and power.  I'll write about history.  I'll write about education.  I’ll write about our country. I’ll write about Minnesota.  And I’ll probably write about various and sundry other topics as well.  As a white person who is always working to develop his critical consciousness and historical context, who is working to unlearn so many dominant narratives, I'll write here, above all, to learn

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