The nice storm is coming to the U

Don’t think Minnesota nice is an OK policy on diversity, because it’s not.

There’s a storm coming to Minnesota. For folks here it’s a most peculiar storm; you can’t shovel it and salt doesn’t make it bearable. Neither do mass e-mails about “bias incidents,” however well-intentioned.

I’ve seen this weather before. I know conventional wisdom is that it never storms in California, but we have them once in a while. Like when Rodney King was beaten or when OJ got acquitted. In the land of Hubert H. Humphrey, the storm of race is looming. Oh, it’s starting like a winter breeze, but it smells like a hurricane. With people being attacked over race and ethnicity, how do you feel about our levies? It’s a trick question. You can’t build bigger walls against race. You can build them in your heart, and you can build them in your mind, but as the saying goes, better to light a candle than curse the darkness. This place used to light candles for the world; now we are too paralyzed by political correctness to light a match, for fear of the blaze that might ensue.

The fact is that the racial makeup of the the country is changing. In California whites are the minority, so it stares you in the face. Fifty years ago, race in America brought us together, thanks to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Humphrey. In the face of Katrina, it might tear us apart, and with Rosa Parks in heaven, who’s willing to hang on to their seat? Who should lead with the storm on the horizon? The University should lead. If anyone knows the value of diversity, it’s the University. Who should lead at the University? We should. Students. Faculty. Staff.

I laud University President Bob Bruininks for launching strategic planning to try and make this place better. Maybe I don’t agree with all of the policies, but I respect the goal. Do you? If you have a bone to pick, strategic planning is your forum to set the values of this place, and heaven help us all if diversity isn’t one of them. At this place, in this state, racial discrimination should be unacceptable. The president shouldn’t have to say it, and he shouldn’t have to water it down with politically correct platitudes. In case you missed it, there is race behind the hate crimes going on here; how do you feel about it?

I realize that might just be my California bluntness coming through. Yeah, I know California is crazy. We have a penchant for making actors governor and we’re shockingly nonchalant about bankruptcy. Once in a while we do some things right. Most of us think gays should have the right to marry, the mayor of our largest city is Latino and we don’t just believe in diversity, we live it. Sometimes it makes us abrasive. We argue. But at least there’s dialogue. Because dialogue about diversity isn’t just the process, it’s the payoff.

If this school is dedicated to combating racism (and I think it is), and if this place is really committed to diversity (mulligan), then communication is key, and that means getting over the inclination to be politically correct. I think a lot of Minnesotans are worried about “sounding racist.” People are so afraid of being anything but nice; they’d rather be silent. Problem is, silence can be deafening, and on this issue, quite deleterious.

Diversity is coming to the University like it’s coming to the state. This place has a strong and contentious legacy of diversity ” it’s produced powerful leaders, but it also was the anti-Semitism capital of the country, in darker days. So don’t think Minnesota nice is an OK policy on this issue. It’s not. Get engaged. Be involved. Start a dialogue. It’s going to take a community to weather the storm, and I’d love to see it built; because I’ve seen this storm, and I prefer the sunshine.

David Uejio is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]