As I witnessed the Minneapolis City council Public Hearing on the 2016 budget on December 9, 2015, I kept thinking about another place and time.
In May 2010 the Governor of Arizona, prodded by her education commissioners, signed a bill banning ethnic studies in K-12 schools in her state. The object of her wrath was a Mexican American studies program in a primarily Mexican American high school in Tucson. In doing so she revealed the ugliest truth. She did NOT want to close the so-called “achievement gap.” She did not want Chicana/o students finishing high school, going to college, becoming empowered, self -motivated learners who could ace standardized tests without ever studying-to- the-test.
At the Minneapolis City council Public Hearing dozens gathered, with two hours notice, to speak out against a $605,000 amendment to fortify the 4th precinct building. Like the Ethnic Studies ban in Arizona, the amendment — not to invest in North Minneapolis, but to protect a building and the police –– revealed that the “equity” Mayor did not really want to see people empowered.
When Jamar Clark was killed by the police, people mobilized to take on the rotten- to-the-core injustices of the city’s criminal justice system. Through the occupation of the 4th precinct they addressed immediate needs of people like food and a place to sleep. They broke down divisions among Minneapolitans struggling economically. Some non-profits dedicated their resources to aid the mobilization. Religious institutions stood up. People were teaching each other how to build a movement, maintain self care, support each other across racial, gender, neighborhood and gang lines. People were empowered.
The response? Bulldozers and a secret amendment to fortify a building!
I am relieved the amendment went down but I don’t think we should exaggerate that win. That $605,000 in found-money should immediately be allocated on the North Side for the children. (If we want to bolster ethnic Studeis programs for the K-12 public schools on the North side I know some people in Arizona who could help out…. )
The Minneapolis budget remains misdirected with a bloated police budget and the police department that (as the people testified at the hearing) terrifies the people — especially African Americans and Native Americans — and is wholly incapable of assisting people experiencing domestic violence. The 605,000 was for the police to protect the police! That should be an outrage to every taxpayer in this city. The K-12 schools on the North side and other low income areas of the city need that money, for trauma therapy, for the arts, for recess, for programs that validate histories and experiences of People of Color….
The real win at the City Council Public Hearing was the testimony – now on Youtube, an invaluable historical archive, a witness to empowerment and solidarity. Take it in segments. Be inspired. See how the movement, despite bulldozers, is still building.
The Arizona ban in 2010 spurred a movement that has led to the spread of Mexican American studies and other ethnic studies programs across the U.S. I believe that we can win.