To the editor:

In the past few weeks there have been troubling reports on the attitude of some county commissioners and City Council members regarding racism and equality. This led me to believe that current and aspiring leaders like me need to make an unambiguous public statement on our views about equality. Here is mine.

I was born a straight white male into a middle class, two-parent family. That is the environment in which I was forged. I lived in an overwhelmingly white neighborhood, and that whiteness is what I understood. I knew that I had opportunities to pursue almost any future I chose. Later in life, at the University of North Dakota and in the Navy, I was exposed to a more diverse community of black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC). Mere exposure didn’t, couldn’t lead me to understand that a young black male, regardless of social status, didn’t see the same opportunities in front of him that I did. I realized there were inequities, and I believed that that, in itself, allowed me to claim I was not a racist. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in a webinar featuring Dr. Ibram Kendi — the author of “How to be an Anitiracist,” and I subsequently bought his book. I will admit that when I first heard of “antiracism,” I rolled my eyes and thought, “Here we go again, another semantic twist on the same old story.” I was wrong. Dr. Kendi’s concept of antiracism clarified for me that racism is less about who we are than it is about what we do. “One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist.” It is Pollyannaish at best to claim that discrimination (racism) doesn’t exist in Anoka, and I agree, as Kendi says, “denial is the heartbeat of racism.” If you were to ask me today, “Are you a racist?”, my answer would be, “Sometimes I am, and sometimes I’m not.” My commitment is to confront racial inequity whenever I see it and promote antiracist action.

Mike Erickson

Anoka

Erickson is the DFL candidate in House District 35A.

(1) comment

Rod Kuehn

You've made some important discoveries. As importantly, you've gone public with them. That's far more than the vast majority of politicians - including DFLers - are willing to do. I applaud your introspection and forthrightness!

How would you share your insights with your constituents and future colleagues? In other words, how would you work to change the *attitudes* that drive bigotry and the resulting inequality? For example, would you sponsor town halls, guest lecturers, community meetings where neighbors can meet neighbors different from themselves? Perhaps talk to church and community groups?

How would you explain the current social instability surrounding race and policing in a way that a concerned white audience could understand and sympathize with? In a way that BIPOC could see real improvements on the horizon?

These are hard, perhaps unanswerable questions in the face of Trump's coded onslaught of bigotry. Few have the courage to try.

Do you have plans to directly attack inequality?

Racism is a many-headed ogre that demands far more than good intentions to understand and address. Have you selected advisors?

Welcome to the discussion.

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