I’m not the only person in Duluth finding it hard to get past the Red Plan.
I got two emails about it from supporters of mine who were not satisfied with Jennifer’s analysis that we have other problems in River City besides the Red Plan. Still, I have to agree with Jennifer that it is a great oversimplification on my part to blame all our problems on the Red Plan.
Jennifer went on to say this:
“Personally, I was really affected by what Brandon Clokey had to say. People of color have been made to feel like outsiders here for generations.”
Yesterday, Tuesday June 28th, I auditioned for a part in a “teaser” about the infamous 1920 lynching in Duluth. Heck, I may get to play an incorrigible racist. I’ve learned a few things about the consequences of that event over the years. A lynching taking place so far north of the Mason-Dixon line helped drive then U of M student Roy Wilkins to the NAACP where he became one of the major architechs of the legal challenges to Jim Crow which also led to my being in a sixth grade classroom which had as many black kids in it as white kids in the newly integrated Topeka, Kansas schools.
The other thing worth remembering is that that lynching chased African Americans out of Duluth. In other small industrial towns to our east in Wisconsin like Racine there was a significant black population but not in Duluth. Most blacks packed up and left and they didn’t come back in any serious numbers until the Cold War led to the build up of the Air Force in Duluth. That brought black military families to Duluth but they departed again when the Air Base was ratcheted back shortly after I moved to Duluth in the 1970’s. The first house my wife and I bought in the Lincoln Park neighborhood had been owned by a black military family who had left in the retreat.
I wrote the text on the Snowbizz webpage back in about 2000, sixteen years ago, and mentioned then that Duluth’s black population was creeping back up. Today it is reflected in our schools and stands at about 8% of our total student population. That’s almost the national percentage of African-Americans. And yet, as Jennifer’s Zenith story noted, we have done an absolutely execrable job hiring minority teachers. I’m aware of one particularly embarrassing instance when a gifted black administrator was chased out of our schools at the behest of some of our most beloved community leaders. That was just as I was taking up office as a returned school board member.
So, is that the Red Plan’s fault. Nope.
But as I said, it is an aggravating factor. Sadly, we are not yet a colorblind world and suspensions and dropping out has taken a much greater toll on minority children.
Here are two of the emails that Jennifer’s email provoked. I don’t think they undermine Jennifer’s observations but they are both valid critiques of the Red Plan whose aftermath we have yet to get past.
First came this under the subject heading “Respectfully disagree:”
The Red Plan is the root of all things evil!
The board is stuck repairing the devastation left in the wake of JCI’s extreme makeover. And where is JCI now?
Well, their profits are so large they are in Ireland to escape taxes.
Just think of all the time and energy spent trying to stay above water, deciding what to cut. And just imagine if a more moderate proposal as suggested by LDV had been chosen? Updated buildings as well as time and money for forward looking educational programming.
Positive energy and focus[?] Just can’t happen when Duluth is strapped by the terrible mistake of the past, the Red Plan.
And there was this which is directed at how a non minority child was affected by the Red Plan’s turmoil and staff distraction:
The only issue I have with the writer from the Zenith is, bullying was rampant due to the Red Plan. The year Woodland and Ordean kids were housed at Woodland is the year that my friend’s son Gregg Nugent , then in the 6th grade, sustained a concussion and was brought by ambulance to the hospital after being smashed up against a set of lockers. Off and on until his sophomore he was bullied due to the district inability to control this issue. On September 24th of his sophomore year he was bullied again, came home and took his life. I blame the Red Plan , large class sizes, not enough counselors for the number of students and the district for not doing enough to solve this problem. Gregg’s death is a direct cause of the Red Plan fiasco.
The Board has to own this.
And, by the way:
The issue of student suicides has been close to the students at East high since Gregg’s death. That was clear at a recent School Board meeting. As for the unwillingness of some School Board members “to own this” I mentioned this anecdote in the referenced post:
“At the end of the meeting one Board member interrupted a conversation that Mr. Frederickson, Alanna Oswald and I were having and told Spencer with dismissive authority that school’s were not responsible for children’s suicides.”