As soon as Minnesotans heard the news that Minneapolis police had brutally murdered another innocent Black person, we demanded action. Racism and injustice burst to the center of our national discourse once again, and we asked ourselves, how can we do better?
At least, some of us did.
Minnesota conservatives failed to act on racial justice during the special session. They showed more outrage over a statue than the killing of a fellow Minnesotan. And whether on-the-clock or on social media, they’ve proved just how out-of-touch they are with Minnesotans of color.
From the cringey to the blatantly offensive, here are the five worst comments from MN conservatives since #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd protests began.
“Names he had never heard before”
— esme murphy (@esmemurphy) June 12, 2020
Unless he somehow ran into Elon Musk’s baby during his visit to Minneapolis, it’s safe to assume that conservative Senator Paul Gazelka is referring to “ethnic” names he encountered in communities of color. This kind of language is othering and inappropriate. We’re proud of Minnesota’s rich diversity, and we can’t continue to push the idea that white, European names are “normal,” while names from other cultures are not.
“Moms out in the suburbs”
After protests erupted in Minneapolis demanding justice for George Floyd, Paul Gazelka showed great concern. But not for the disproportionately Black victims of police brutality. His concern was primarily for (checks notes) white suburban moms.
“Where’s the apology to the moms out in the suburbs scared to death about what’s happening all around them?” Gazelka asked, in reference to the unrest in Minneapolis.
This is messed up for a few reasons. One, it paints suburban moms as helpless and fearful, which feeds sexist stereotypes. Plus, plenty of suburban moms are out there demanding action on racial justice alongside their neighbors in the Twin Cities.
And who are these mysterious, scared suburban moms, anyway? Because enough not-scared suburban moms spoke out against Gazelka’s comments that “#IAmASuburbanMom” trended on Twitter.
My question for Senator Gazelka is this: Where is your apology to Black mothers–including the ones “out in the suburbs”–who still have to worry about losing their children to racist police violence?
“Cancelled Aunt Jemima”
.@rcchamberlain1 decided to let his true colors show even more today.
— A Better Minnesota (@ABetterMN) June 17, 2020
You know what? We’ll let that screenshot speak for itself.
“Only a start I am sure”
GOP State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, a committee chair and former Secretary of State, suggests in FB comment that black Americans “want $13 Trillion. $375,000 for each black.” “That is only a start I am sure,” she adds. I have asked caucus spox for comment: pic.twitter.com/Cq3UStiDwa
— Torey Van Oot (@toreyvanoot) June 2, 2020
At first glance, this comment thread looks like a typical exchange between conservative trolls on Facebook. And then you look at the names. That’s not just anybody. That’s a Minnesota state senator feeding racist alarm online.
She alleges that Black Americans are asking for, in her words, “$375,000 for each black.” Then somebody named “Jeff” chimes in to lament how much has been spent on “the blacks,” and Senator Mary Kiffmeyer agrees with him. “That is only a start I am sure,” she adds.
If conservatives are making these kinds of dehumanizing comments on public Facebook posts, what are they saying when they don’t think anyone is looking? What goes on behind their office doors while they’re preparing bills? To quote Senator Kiffmeyer, this very public display of racism is “only a start I am sure.”
“Just a sidebar”
Conservatives have tried a lot of spins to avoid addressing police violence, but this one takes the cake. In a press conference, Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen said that racism is “just a sidebar.“
In response, progressive Senator Jeff Hayden put it best:
“It is insulting to suggest that racism is a sidebar to the pattern of police violence from the MPD against black and brown communities. Structural racism is a central issue in need of investigating, and our colleagues in the Senate majority would know this if they would make any effort to engage with members of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus on criminal justice and policing reforms.”
Despite the conservatives’ best efforts, ignoring racism won’t make it go away. Black Minnesotans, Indigenous Minnesotans, and Minnesotans of color are affected by racism and structural inequities every single day. Calling those experiences a “sidebar” is offensive and callous.
We have to do better
Exhausted by all these out-of-touch comments? You’re not alone. But that’s why we need to keep fighting. We have to demand racial justice and hold conservatives accountable when they fail to act. We can’t accept their excuses anymore. For action alerts and updates about these issues and more, keep up with ABM on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.