Minneapolis cancels “sacred” race-segregated staff meetings; Pearlstein calls out Identity Politics

Just about everybody at Minneapolis City Hall, even the Mayor, was running away from a plan to hold race-segregated lunch-hour sessions focused on, you got it— race. (See Star Tribune, City cancels sessions on slavery, with black, white staffers in different rooms.) All the elected officials interviewed were saying, “It was not my idea!” I guess that is the good news.

Here is the bad news for taxpayers, and anyone of any race, who values their sanity at work: Apparently city “equity staff” staff came up with the idea to hold these “sacred” sessions with black people in one room and white people in another. (What if you are a combo, or some other color? How you were supposed to pick which group you belonged to? Seriously.)

Here is the luncheon series:

Each one-hour session was to have a theme: Thursday’s was to be “remembering who we are,” the one on June 27 was designated as “recovering our narratives of oppression and liberation,” and the July 25 session was on “re-imaging a future without harm.” The sessions for black and white staffers were to be held at the same time but in different places.

Why, may I ask, is the City of Minneapolis, engaged in this conversation? Is this what “Equity Coordinators” do? If so, I have a suggestion for staff cuts that could result in immediate savings to the city’s bottom line.

Granted these were to be held over the lunch hour, but staff time was devoted to planning, now canceling/scrambling and then repackaging/rescheduling the lunch series.

Since when is work, especially public-sector work funded by taxpayers, a time to engage in what sounds like a course at one of our formerly venerable institutions of higher learning? How does this get any pot holes filled or make the city a safer, better place to live?

Just as importantly, how does this help employees of different backgrounds work together and support one another? How does this advance the “equity” ball?

City Coordinator Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde issued a statement indicating she had called off the sessions but that they would be rescheduled. It was unclear Tuesday when that would happen.

“It came to my attention … that sessions had been promoted publicly in a way the city does not condone, as we cannot nor will we divide people based on race, ethnicity or any other protected class,” Rivera-Vandermyde wrote.


Minneapolis Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel, who wasn’t involved in the planning, said the discussions were meant to be part of a long-running effort to address racial equity in city government and services such as development, transportation and housing.

“It was never our intent to exclude or marginalize anybody in the city,” she said. “What’s lost is the understanding that not everybody is in the same place in these issues.”


My colleague, Mitch Pearlstein, had this to day:

Mitch Pearlstein, founder and senior fellow at the Center of the American Experiment, called the sessions another example of the absurdity of “identity politics” in Minneapolis.

 “I rarely have confidence discussions about race will be productive,” he said, adding that he believes discussions usually result in people who agree getting a room and saying the same things to each other.

“Most likely people who might offer unorthodox views don’t show up,” he said.

As to the notion of separate rooms for black and white staffers, Pearlstein said that someone would “have to go well out of your way to find something that open to parody.”

What he said.