Readers Write: Minneapolis Crime Commentary, ‘Unenlightened White Men’ Essay

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Are people upset with Minneapolis City Councilman Michael Rainville because he told the truth about what he saw (“Councilman’s apology questioned,” July 11) ? Or are they upset because they don’t like that he identified people who were committing illegal acts? As a society, have we become so sensitive that we cannot hear the truth about who is committing criminal acts? The only way to stop the violence is to identify who is doing it. Thank you, Council Member Rainville, for telling us what you observed.

Ray Shannon, Ham Lake

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My wife and I have lived in the St. Anthony Main neighborhood of downtown Minneapolis since 2017. We love the diversity of our community, being close to the natural beauty of the Mississippi River, and enjoying all the amenities our city has to offer.

But unfortunately, things have gotten worse in recent years. Violent crime has skyrocketed, and it appears the city council and justice system, instead of tackling lawlessness head-on, are simply waving white flags. Still, while many may be fleeing to the suburbs, we have no intention of giving up on the North East as we love it here and hope things get better.

One of the reasons for this optimism is our Third Ward Council Member, Michael Rainville, who has been a bold voice at City Hall calling for swift and overwhelming action to address the historic crime crisis in our city. He is a selfless public servant and rightly called for the extra law enforcement our beleaguered communities so desperately need now. We are proud that our City Councilman has stood up to the dangerous defund the police movement and recognizes, as few in Minneapolis city government seem to do, that crime is not a political problem but rather an existential problem that threatens to destroy the city we all love in no time.

Brehm neighborhood, Minneapolis

‘UNLIT WHITE MALES’

A recent commentary by Sharon E. Carlson (Opinion Exchange, July 9) posed the question, “What’s going on with the unenlightened white man?” After reading her thoughts on the male ego, I wondered how she (dare I use a gender-specific pronoun) defines “unenlightened”? Who determines if a guy is enlightened or a rude, blind troglodyte?

I consider myself reasonably enlightened. I’m well-educated, read a lot, traveled internationally, and consider myself a pragmatic, politically savvy centrist. Yet I suspect that many progressive activists would consider me woefully ignorant. I still believe that the United States was founded by idealists whose ideas, if not always their actions, were enlightened for their time. So, it pains me when I see my polling place, a school named after Thomas Jefferson, carrying a banner reading Ella Baker Global Studies and Humanities Magnet School.

Unlike many of our outspoken City Council members, I believe shooters, carjackers, car racers, firework shooters, thieves, aggressive beggars and other criminals are a greater threat for public safety than the police, which council members seem to be happy about. slander, if not definance. Does my reluctance to celebrate diversity, even when diversity misbehaves, make me unenlightened?

I really wish Carlson had defined his term. There are many reasons for a reasonable white man to be seriously unhappy at both ends of the political spectrum.

Donald Wolesky, Minneapolis

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I enjoyed Carlson’s comments and ideas about white men, or at least white men in their fifties like his brothers.

I’m a white male in my mid-70s. When I grew up decades ago in small town Indiana, there wasn’t much of a distinction between white collar and blue collar. The economic gap between the town doctor or dentist and a worker at the local Chrysler plant was not that great. Anyone could afford a house, a car or two, a vacation, and send their kids to college, if that was what they wanted. I had no idea then that white men shared the feelings of insecurity and vulnerability felt by Carlson’s brothers.

Of course, in the 1950s and 1960s, white men had no competition from other racial or ethnic groups for jobs and opportunities. Discrimination against minorities ensured white men their place at the head of the line. Did the opening of the door to other previously overwhelmed populations usher in the era of white men feeling vulnerable? Maybe. Or was it the growing gap between the “haves” and the middle class?

The answer to when white men began to feel vulnerable and insecure is probably complex. However, it is probably true that they now feel the same anxieties and insecurities that men of other races and ethnicities have felt for generations. It’s kind of hard to feel too much sympathy for them.

Fred Morris, Minneapolis

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There seems to be a certain segment of white men who desperately need to hear “it’s not your fault”. They seem to gravitate towards those who tell them this, and who also tell them that they are in fact “victims”. I believe this is one of the reasons Donald Trump came to power and why we are now seeing the rise of white supremacist groups and ideology.

It may be that when some of these vulnerable white men start to truly believe that they are blameless victims, they sometimes go on a rampage – like most recently in Buffalo, NY; Uvalde, Texas, and Highland Park, Illinois. It’s a curious contradiction in message that the same people saying “it’s not your fault” are also preaching “personal responsibility” – a confusing juxtaposition of course. But it is a problem that we as a society are finding an answer to or, I fear, we will continue to face these tragedies for a very long time.

David McCuskey, Orono

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Carlson’s observations of “the predicament of white men” are simply a variation of the predicament most Americans have faced due to the past 40+ years of economic restructuring.

During this period, we had three major tax cuts that mainly benefited the wealthy. We added new necessities to household budgets (eg, cell phones and internet access) and did little to reduce the burden of health care, day care, nursing homes or college education. When we try – for example, by reducing student debt or passing the Affordable Health Care Act – efforts are undone as soon as possible. Unions have been attacked, the minimum wage is below the poverty line, and the Minnesota attorney general’s office says employees are losing $50 billion a year nationwide due to outright wage theft . Etc.

The richest 1% of US households now own more than the 77.5 million middle-class households (Star Tribune, October 11, 2021), and real wages have stagnated even as the overall economy has multiplied by seven or so since 1982. MIT’s Living Wage Calculator (livingwage.mit.edu) says a family of two adults and two children in Hennepin County should earn $110,327 a year if both parents work. A single earner would have to earn upwards of $40 an hour to match this idealized situation of the American past.

Yes, this creates a difficult situation for older white men – and for all other ages, genders and ethnicities. The emotional effects or particular stresses vary, but we need to focus on the common issues that make life more difficult for anyone dependent on a salary.

Scott Hvizdos, Richfield

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Based on an evening conversation with his own brothers, Carlson explains white men, their traits, situations, and responses. She acknowledges that demographic groups are not monoliths, but makes dismissive statements as if they were.

A woman is not qualified to speak on behalf of “white men” or any other large group. Neither does a man.

The Star Tribune should not devote a third of a page to spreading narrow, ill-informed and insulting opinions about a group.

Marilyn Cloutier, Stillwater


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