Admitting racism

At the Nov. 14 City Council meeting on the revised draft of the 2040 plan, several speakers identified themselves as residents of Southwest Minneapolis and proclaimed they were “not racist.” Apparently they were prompted by City Council Member Phillipe Cunningham’s critique on Twitter.

“People from SW actually have the audacity to be flooding CMs inboxes with ‘stop the 2040 plan’ by bastardizing the epidemic of outside investors buying up single family homes in North Minneapolis. All in an effort to protect their McMansions and ‘bungalow neighborhoods’ from imaginary developers,” Cunningham tweeted.

First, Cunningham never called them racist, so it’s interesting to me that they went there.

I believe it’s because they know in their hearts that it’s true, and they are exhibiting classic white defensiveness. But more importantly, they are defending their actual privilege in the form of a historically segregated neighborhood that is mostly white and in the face of attempts by the 2040 plan to reduce racial disparities.

I, for one white person, know that I’m racist. I’ve been studying Resmaa Menakem’s book, “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies,” so I know that racism (and the particular historical trauma I carry from my European immigrant ancestors) lives in my body. I’m working on being less harmful by supporting the parts of the 2040 Plan that break down historic and present-day practices that have produced the stunning segregation in Minneapolis that is poisoning my white people’s souls.

The crazy thing you may not believe is that the more I realize that I’m carrying racism in my body, the more liberated I feel. It’s like opening the door of an invisible prison that has kept me unauthentic, aiming for perfection, defensive and controlling.

Now that I can admit, and increasingly be aware of, the racism I soaked up from the very fabric of our systemically racist society (not because I chose to, but because it permeates like a mist unseen by most white people), I feel able to stumble forward, knowing I will make mistakes but forgiving myself and apologizing as I go. It’s really all we can do in this life, and I find it humbling and redeeming.

Bravo Councilmember Cunningham for calling out the truth. And let’s open up the conversation we white people can barely manage to engage in about race.

Who knows, we might all get free.


Nance Kent

Linden Hills