March 23, 2009

Racism in Bemidji

Here's a corollary to what we've been discussing in "Gooks" Assaulted with BBs, Urine and Stereotypes Trigger Hate Crimes:

Survey shows race relations problems in BemidjiKaren Bedeau, from the nearby Red Lake reservation, recalls that when she was a little girl in the 1960s she and her family used to drive to town to shop.

Bedeau says back then, racism against Indians was blatant.

"You were treated very rudely," said Bedeau. "I can remember people hollering at us, calling us names and people telling us to get out of town and things like that. Clearly you were not welcomed there."

Things have improved a lot since then, according to Bedeau.

But at a Bemidji gas station just a few years ago, Bedeau saw something that angered her.

While several Indians were gassing up their cars at the pumps, the store clerk was outside jotting down the numbers from their Red Lake tribal license plates.

"When I went in to pay for my gas, I asked them what they were doing," Bedeau said, "and the clerk said, 'Until you people stop stealing, we will do this.' And I was just taken aback. It goes back to the way I had experienced things years back. So those types of things still exist."
And: With funding from several regional foundations, Shared Vision commissioned the community's most comprehensive study ever on racial attitudes.

The study found that 80 percent of whites rated race relations as fair or good. But more than half of Indians surveyed in Bemidji said relations were poor. That number was even higher for Indians living on neighboring reservations.

Nearly half of Indians surveyed said they regularly experience discrimination in retail stores and by law enforcement. Half of them said they faced discrimination in the job market and in housing.
Comment:  Either Indians are imagining racism or whites are in denial about it. I'm guessing it's the latter.

For more on the subject, see 40% of Whites Are Prejudiced and Everybody Is Racist (including those who deny it).

Below:  "This metal sculpture of an American Indian sits near the statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe on the Bemidji waterfront. There's been longstanding racial tension between the two cultures the statues represent." (MPR Photo/Tom Robertson)

Juxtaposing the two statues is potentially a problem, since it links real people with fictional characters.


Anonymous said...

What's the Longest River in the World? ("De-Nile") -

As in Rapid City, South Dakota, the racist white community (that has to consist of at least 80% of the population of the RC metro area of 120,000) is in absolute denial as to how badly Indians are treated there.

From a very rudimentary psychological perspective, when anyone is engaged in negative behavior that is self-directed and wholly willful, they are almost always in full denial of it.

In Rapid City, the racists get really, really MAD when they are confronted in an articulate manner as to their racist practices and actions.

I have come to believe that the amount of psycho-emotional energy that is needed to maintain strongly racist sentiment is directly commensurate with the energy necessary to deny it - which explains to me this near-psychotic overreaction on the part of the racists when their hatred is pointed out to them in no uncertain terms.

People who are deeply mired in the quicksand of denial will always overreact to the illumination of their denial: try to tell a hardcore dope fiend or a raging drunk about the destructive nature of denying that they have a problem - then, watch out!

I have also lived in Minnesota in the '80s when I attended a trade school in Minneapolis, and I have also spent a little time in Bemidji - so, I know all-too-well how bad the racism towards Indians is in that city.

NOTE: I will expand upon this comment as a stand alone posting.

- Melvin

Anonymous said...

I am a resident of Bemidji Minnesota and take offense to your caption of racism in Bemidji, with the picture of a magnificent sculpter, the sculpter is a member of the Red Lake Nation of Ojibwa. You are very misinformed and misguided in your thoughts. Learn the truth, as the sculpter is apart of the Bemidji sculpter walk, every year artists place their works throughout Bemidji and the best is placerd permanently within the city. The sculpter of the "Dancer" was the first winner and takes a place on the lake front, which is not seen in your photo. You only show the fictional scuplters to point out that Bemidji is ignorant and racist.

Rob said...

The photo was used in the original article to show the two cultures in Bemidji, Anonymous. I didn't say anything about the sculpture other than it depicts a real person: an Indian.

Therefore, it's you who are misinformed and misguided in your thoughts. Learn the truth so you won't criticize me next time for a problem that seems to be yours, not mine.