Op-ed: Reaction to Star Tribune ‘Readers Write’ for May 14
The Star Tribune has a whole lot more readers than the humble North Star Post at this juncture. They also have a much larger staff and readership that feels compelled to emotionally react to their articles. The May 14th edition of their ‘Readers Write’ column features a distasteful combination of all of these factors.
“Nekima Levy-Pounds’ activism is unconstructive, intrusive” reads the sub-header underneath the title. People familiar with the reaction Levy-Pounds receives seemingly every time she speaks publicly will not be surprised about the “substance” of that reader’s commentary. Teresa Maki of Minnetonka (which is one of the wealthiest and whitest of all the suburbs of Minneapolis), seems unusually concerned with the well-being of the Parks Board of a city she’s not a resident of and offers some belittling instructions to Levy-Pounds and fellow activists.
The crux of what Maki wrote and the Star Tribune chose to publish includes condescension about how these activists should basically quit protesting and chose instead to work on electoral reforms and with the institutions they’re protesting. This is not new to those who pay attention to the politics surrounding protest movements. There often are detractors who say, “why not just get someone elected” as if that’s the end-all, be-all to the extremely complex, and historically rooted problems that people find themselves protesting against.
The language about these tactics being “unconstructive, intrusive” sounds eerily reminiscent of that which was used by those who opposed protests during the Civil Rights Movement (which Black Lives Matter certainly is the modern equivalent of). It reminds me of the famous quote by Ghandi, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Observers of the recent hearings on police body camera legislation at the Minnesota Legislature noted similarly veiled language from none other than elected officials who should be eager for public input. This is doubly true when that input is coming from citizens representing marginalized communities that will undoubtedly be greatly effected by such legislation.
Is it really that these people have problems with her tactics, or are they uncomfortable confronting the issues she and others are raising? It’s probably that and her identity as a black woman who won’t shut up and sit down when she’s commanded to by the privileged and powerful. I certainly didn’t see anyone writing to the Star Tribune so much as acknowledging the problems that this activism is exposing.
If activists took the advice – which is always offered – to work within the power structures there would never be progress. Americans wouldn’t directly elect their Senators, women wouldn’t have the right to vote, civil rights would be much more abysmal than they are now, etc.
So, to Teresa Maki, are you truly concerned with defending the Minneapolis Parks Board or was this a convenient opportunity to attack someone who’s working on bettering the lives of people impacted by local government? And to the Parks Board itself, maybe instead of attacking protesters why not address some of the causes for their protests? Finally, to the Star Tribune, please do something about the vile comment threads that spiral downward into unconstructive and hateful speech every time Black Lives Matter or Nekima Levy-Pounds is mentioned in an article.
I sincerely hope that Nekima Levy-Pounds keeps it up otherwise the people whining to the Star Tribune would never be forced to even think about these issues.