Structural Racism At Root Of Offensive Remark About North Minneapolis Says Rep. Moran

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Rep. Rena Moran

House Media Services

Rep. Rena Moran

Others booed, but Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St.Paul) thought for several hours before responding to an offensive remark Rep. Jim Newberger (R-Becker) had made about North Minneapolis.

During a debate on funding for the North Star rail line Newberger said “Boy, wouldn’t that be convenient, to have that rail line going from the prison to North Minneapolis.” After hearing some grumbling he quickly added, “or to any section of our state.” Boos were heard in the House chamber.

As the clock was approaching midnight, Moran got up to address the body on a point of personal privilege.

“So often we say let it go, let it pass. You know, don’t respond to it. But I feel that I have a need to respond to Rep. Newberger’s comments that he made earlier.”

Moran said she found Newberger’s initial comment offensive. “I truly felt disrespected myself. And I know I don’t stand alone in feeling disrespect but North Minneapolis and St. Paul and many other communities that are so often targeted with disrespectful biased language.”

Newberger had quickly apologized for naming North Minneapolis saying “but that’s what came into my mind. It doesn’t matter, it could be any part of the city. But if you’re going to connect a large metro to a prison there’s going to be some concerns. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t.”

Moran was disappointed in those remarks as well.

“He (Newberger) depicted St. Cloud prison with North Minneapolis, a community that’s very diverse. So much like the community in St. Paul. But that is what came into his mind – prison and a community of color.

“You know and that is so often what happens as we stand in a state that has a huge amount of disparities. Disparities in education. Disparities in jobs. Disparity in health care. Disparity within our criminal justice system where biases come to a heave.”

Structural Racism And Stereotypes

Moran then mentioned a 2013 Minnesota Department of Health report on disparities. “They didn’t say disparities exist because it’s parents fault in communities of color, that it’s children and youth and students fault in communities of color. They stated that disparity exists because of structural racism.

“And for those who don’t know what structural racism is…maybe it’s not about legislators who are intentionally creating policy that disproportionately impact communities of color. But that is what happens.

“And it comes when we have a mindset of looking at stereotypes. Looking at a community where we don’t have any relationship or knowledge of that community and we make assumptions the people within that community. People who are working very hard for themselves and their community and their kin to have better outcomes. To be self-sustained and sustainable.

“Families who want the best for themselves and their children. But it’s the biases and the stereotypes that gets in the way from that happening.”

Moran saw parallels between the Republican majority’s emphasis this session on providing more resources to areas outside the metro area and the need to provide resources to communities of color that lack resources.

“We are just the afterthought. What you’re doing doesn’t work for us,” is what Moran said she has been hearing from rural communities. “And that is just about what communities of color has been saying for a very long time. What is happening is not working for our community. We are a community of people who are under resourced.”

“And so I just hope as we go, as we go on as a body that we look within ourselves about what we need to do to make sure that we’re working development of all statewide to create the opportunities for all that we need to insure that all are getting the jobs that they need. That all are getting a good education that they need. That we are really working towards the betterment of our communities, that we are not stopping, locking up communities of color – especially our black men who are (inaudible) within our prison systems.

“So I can understand your thought on how you see it. Because we are a community that is scared. There are so many within our community who are scared. In the 21st century there are so many who are scared that we have not made it to a more fair and just society.”

Moran turned her final comment directly to Newberger. “I’m hoping that going forth you will spend some time expanding your worldview and getting to know the people a bit better without making those types of assumptions.”

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

5 thoughts on “Structural Racism At Root Of Offensive Remark About North Minneapolis Says Rep. Moran

  1. I think the other obstacle being overlooked and equally offensive is the level of poverty some folks are living in. Many on the Northside have to settle for the violence within their community simply because they cannot afford to move and live in safer communities. As a young single mother living just off West Broadway I dreamed of making it across that Broadway bridge because things were safer there but rents were also higher there so I felt stuck. Crime was bad then and the police had a history of taking their time or not coming at all. It was assumed because parents didn’t show for school conferences that they just don’t care, but it occur to teachers that many worked, often low wage jobs without the benefit of “time-off”. Poverty, is like quick sand once you’re in in takes 10x the effort and even some luck to get out. That was 25 years ago and yet I know much of that same still struggle continues.

  2. The truth is that he was just saying what he, and many others really feel. At least he was honest about it. What’s worse is those who you think don’t feel like him, and act like they are with you, but in reality, are not. The smilers. Those who smile in your face, and stick you in the back, and then play innocent. The truth is that they are in the process of kicking Blacks out of near North anyways. That fire was on W. Broadway last week? I think it was arson. Bet you they will replace that block with very expensive condos, and that area will soon be a place where the average Black can’t afford. The land always had value, it’s just that the people who lived there was seen as having no value. I’m glad Rep Moran did speak up, but the leadership of the area should have been talking. Their silence tells you that they are getting ready to sell the Black community out, for a few pieces of silver. They are Black Judas.

  3. So glad she stood up and called him on his bullshit. That’s straight up racist, and he deserved to be called out!

  4. Dear Representative James Newberger,

    Please resign, you are an embarrassment to all Minnesotans. Please resign immediatly. Stop voting for Mormons for president. Stop driving your huge SUV to work alone. Stop shopping at Walmart. Stop telling racist jokes, on stage, in front of the TV cameras and therefore the world.

    Just ask for forgiveness, resign, get a US Passport, travel to the world, get your mind and your soul right and maybe, just maybe we’ll give you another shot.

    But please do the right thing, ask for forgiveness and resign….like a man.


    Tim Scott