Category Archives: Civil Rights

The Big Short

I put this movie in my memory bank over the last year when some economic analyst on NPR gave it a big thumbs up. Last night I saw that it was available on Netflix and Claudia and I watched it. It was Economics made fun and every bit as disgusting as a Zombie Apocalypse movie.

The Housing meltdown roughly coincided with the start up of the Red Plan and its purveyors shared many similarities to the get off scott-free, big money folks who pushed replacing almost all our facilities at a single stroke. They got rich and left the District to draw down its reserves, cut teachers, and compound it all by sucking millions of dollars annually out of our local tax levies in the General Fund to pay off Red Plan borrowing. Their supporters herd-like thinking reminded me of the people in the Big Short who stood back in disbelief as investment bankers cost six million Americans to lose their homes.

I’ve mentioned this before but that meltdown was part of the reason I had a heckuva time fighting the Red Plan. My family got caught up in the housing mania and a massive loan was taken out on my Mother’s house even though it was only a decade away from being paid off in full with very modest house payments. I’ve recently patched up my differences with the family members who lost that house and left me to spend months and months trying to get City Bank and Wells Fargo to let us short sell the house at a loss (for the banks) who eagerly permitted the misguided loan to go through. Our “short sale” took my brother and me months of calling the banks daily to find a human behind a phone. It was all I could do to find time for two simultaneous battles. When the sale neared completion and I finally pulled out of the Red Plan fight I took a vacation with Claudia. I faxed the last papers to the bank while traveling through, Lincoln, Nebraska, on our way to the Colorado Plateau. I was desperate to get out of town. I was so worn out that I got violently ill at the Grand Canyon. One morning Claudia heard an elk bugling outside our cabin and she thought it was me in my deaths throes. That’s what you get for burning your candle at two ends.

This post needs a good editing but that can wait. Claudia and I are going out to see Hidden Figures. That should be a good film too.

Editing is now complete…….

Hidden Figures is great.


I thought I was much younger when I read this story in our family’s copy of Life Magazine but it came out when I was 15 years old. Its about the mixed race couple, the Lovings, who successfully challenged the anti-miscegenation laws in the Supreme Court.

One of the bigoted things (my Buddy’s characterization) I wrote recently was that southern racists fled into the once hated “Party of Lincoln” in my lifetime. Evidence of this came out in a notorious 2011 poll showing that 46% of Mississippi Republicans thought “miscegenation” should be made illegal again as opposed to 40% who thought it should be legal. If it had been up to the majority President Obama’s mother would have been put in jail.

We went to see the touching movie “Loving” at the Zinema today. Claudia said it was a little long and slow but I suspect it captured the experience lived out by the Lovings. It was a nice antidote to our Birther race baiting President……who, no doubt, never believed a things he said while he was rallying America’s racists. Heck. Now that he’s President he’s making it clear he he didn’t mean anything he said while campaigning to be President of the United States.

Bleeding Kansas

This is one of my Mother’s paintings. Its called “Lilly White Town.” She painted it to symbolize the new world we had moved to when we left Kansas and my Dad began teaching business law at Mankato State. It was a different world where some of my new school mates took to calling me “reb” because they thought my Kansas accent was a southern accent.

When I moved from Topeka, Kansas, to Mankato, Minnesota in 1963 to start junior high school I left a classroom in which there were as many black kids as white kids. My new school had never seen a single black child in a hundred years.

The fellow I call “my Buddy” likes to send me emails calling be a “bigot.” He also calls me a “race hustler.” This is a person I once teased when I discovered he wrote a civil rights rule for a municipality back in the day. I don’t think that when he calls me names he means that I am prejudiced against white people although its likely he thinks I’m guilty of “liberal guilt.” This is a term used by “conservatives” who also like to call liberals “bleeding hearts.” Liberals are supposed to be driven by guilt to rectify old wrongs by accepting the blame for them. This is what Jesus did when he “died for our sins.” How dare libs take on a Jesus complex.

Well, of course, this self righteous attitude would rankle. The equally dim “conservative” reaction goes something like this: “Don’t blame me and don’t expect me to apologize. I never owned slaves. The Civil War is over. Move on. And for your information – just because I’m white doesn’t mean I got any privileges handed to me.” I suspect, but can not prove, that all this goes through my Buddy’s head when he calls me names.

After the Herculean multi-year task of putting 40 years accumulated paperwork in some sort of order in my attic office I’m sitting with a floor completely free from boxes, folders and piles of documents. There are just a handful of items within reach of my clean desk. One of them is the book, Bleeding Kansas, I ordered recently after spotting it in the Kansas City Library.

Its one of the books I plan to consult as I write about my Grandfather, George Robb, next year. His father settled next to a black former slave eighteen years after the passage of the Kansas Nebraska Act.

Long time readers of this blog may remember my past references to my Grandfather’s ties with his neighbor the ex slave and my Grandfather’s service with black soldiers in World War 1 and maybe even the black maid my Mother hired to take care of him when he became infirm.

I think I’m the perfect person to talk about race. I think my Mother suffered from a little guilt where race was concerned. The painting at the beginning is evidence of this. The schools she attended were segregated until she got to junior high school. The Civil Right’s movement was going full bore when she was a young mother. Then she moved to Mankato at its height where there was precisely one black resident among 40,000 locals. He was Dr. Boerboom a veterinarian.

I, on the other-hand got the benefit of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, another frequent topic in this blog. These were my classmates in sixth grade before I left Topeka for lily white Mankato.

In many ways attending school with so many black kids inocculated me from thinking of them as a sterotype. They were individuals and I can understand how and why the 8% of blacks who voted for Donald Trump might have justified voting for man I consider an amoral, race-baiter.

Standing next to me at the top left is the only other Harry I knew growing up, Harry O’Neil. I vividly remember watching him round third base on our elementary playground after he lofted a kickball way into the outfield and looking over his shoulder to make sure he could run to home plate. A split second after he turned his head forward to run into home he smacked into an immovable six-inch-wide tether-ball poll that the Topeka Schools had inconveniently placed on the path from third base to home. He lost his incisors.

On the other end of the top row is Cynthia Robinson. What an annoying girl. She insisted she had another last name that belonged to her real father. There was a divorce or something going on. She was a tattle tale and a religious scold. She once tried to get my favorite teacher Mrs. Criss to kick me off a science club for some infraction. When she overheard me say something she disapproved of she grandly told me that if I ever took the Lord’s name in vain he’d strike me dead on the spot. I took great delight in looking up to the heavens and shouting to God to kill me. Poor Cynthia could only tell me reproachfully that God would oblige me but do it in his own good time when I least expected it. To my delight God has been in no hurry to expedite her prediction.

There’s Sherman a couple rows below me. I remember Mark Knickerbocker telling everyone with great enthusiasm, when Sherman showed up in sixth grade, what a cool kid he was because Mark had known him at a different school years before. My first interaction with Sherman was after school when he snatched my folder of artwork and proceeded to dump the pictures I’d made out to blow around on the playground.

I remember Vicky Bryant who is not in this picture because she was sent to Mrs. Muxlow’s sixth grade class where all the smart kids ended up. (Mr. Ross taught the losers although at the time I thought it was simply the luck of the draw that had separated me from so many of my friends) I invited Vicky to the cool Halloween Party my Dad organized for me in our basement. She was outgoing, smart, friendly and one heck of an athlete.

I passed some of these black kids houses on my way to school next to “Tennessee Town.” Some of them had 12 siblings and lived in tiny rattle trap houses propped up on cement blocks. Leslie Lewis was one of them. She was an Amazon who my Mother thought was becoming quite mature while I only saw her as a goofy giantess. I remember quiet studious black girls from middle class families who were too dignified for me to get to know. Thinking back on it I suspect there was a powerful incentive for them to protect their dignity by having as little to do with dangerous white people than they absolutely had to.

The five years I spent at Loman Hill Elementary School were like an inoculation against white cluelessness. It didn’t make me a champion for civil rights (which I think I am) but it gave me the sense that no one should be stereotyped based on the color of their skin. Heck, only a handful of my black classmates were really dark. A lot of them were much lighter skinned and represented a lot of white genetics. Gotta love the one drop rule.

Among my many finds in the Kansas State Historical Museum Archives was a paper my Grandfather wrote about James H Lane. I have yet to read it and fully expect to learn more about Kansas History as I write a book about my Grandfather. I think America is in the midst of a new Come to Jesus movement where race is concerned. I think that sharing what I know of my Grandfather’s experiences could give us a new perspective and help us move on. If nothing else writing it will help me sleep better at night.

Thank you Dr. Conniff…

…for reading my blog. Thank you also for taking part in an important public conversation……..

I have submitted this piece in its entirety to the Tribune and will withhold it until such time as the Tribune prints it.

This is what I originally posted except that when I saved it the five or so hyperlinks I placed in it were lost. Frankly I’m too busy to replace them. As you can see there is very little change:

Thank you Dr. Conniff for reading my blog. Thank you also for taking part in an important public conversation. Your contribution begins:
“I had to read to the end of the well-reported Nov. 15 article, “District responds to hate speech in Duluth high schools,” to find School Board Member Harry Welty’s recommendation against ‘having a dire punishment for kids abusing their free-speech rights.’
In disbelief, I turned to Welty’s blog”

When the Tribune’s education reporter, Jana Hollingsworth, called me I kept her on the phone for forty minutes as I expanded on my thoughts on this sensitive subject. Due to the Duluth News Tribune’s understandable limitations of time, newsprint, and ink, only two sentences of mine were included in the article to explain my still evolving thinking on this episode.
In the meantime I must insist on an uncomfortable truth: In the United States free speech does include hate speech however much we may be appalled by it. Fortunately it does not include shouting “fire” in a dark theater nor does it include threats or incitement to riot.

My job as a member of the school board is to think my way through what has been happening over the last year and how to deal with its consequences over the next four and possibly, God forbid, eight years. Making martyrs out of Duluth students for parroting the hateful things they hear on the Internet and no doubt in their homes and on the nightly news is not the best or most thoughtful response. That would be fighting fire with grease which would only make the conflagration more intense.
Duluth has undergone two recent changes which exacerbate the negativity of 2016 election. 1. It divided its school district into rich/poor and black/white schools at the same time as 2. Its African-American community has begun to expand significantly leading to a white flight from our schools of perhaps 15% of the student population. There has been one heartening development over these recent years. Our children have assumed a generous and open attitude toward their superficial differences. The reaction of students in both East High and Denfeld have been remarkable rebukes to the politics that seem to have generated the “hate speech.” I take great comfort in that.

These generous reactions must be supported by the School Board not undermined by meting out “dire punishments” prompted by shock at the outcome of the recent election. We need to follow our better angels. That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. did. His legacy, the “Southern Christian Leadership Conference” has continued for fifty years to keep a watchful eye out for the vestiges of hate and racism that King gave his life to make part of our nation’s past. I do not believe King would have encouraged us to force it underground but would have advised us to keep it in full view where it could be exposed for what it is – a grievous assault on the spirit of justice and equality that our nation was founded upon.

More on interning Muslims for the nation’s security

Our good friend just posted the link to the NY Times story about the potential internship of Muslims. She has an adopted Korean child that attended Sunday school with my children. She said this of the story:

“I am speechless about views like this. My son just asked about his adoption and naturalization papers. This is appalling.”

I find myself reading about the circus that is the Trump transition team and hardening my mind toward anything Trump.

My Buddy just sent me a link to a Wikileaks apologist explaining that they mean nothing personal and they they are just insuring full disclosure. I guess I was supposed to take this as reassuring. The trouble is there is no level playing field when it comes to moles and rats ferreting out secret data. Whoever is the most determined to ferret out data and whoever is the most vulnerable to hacking can make for very unequal results.

What have I learned about Clinton from Wikileaks? That Democrats protect their own and friends help scratch each other’s backs. Scandalous! Even Bernie Sanders who came out on the short end of the stick made no bones about his preference for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

Lucky Donald Trump. He is like Reagan and made of Teflon no matter what offal he swims through. He’s bringing the deplorables into the White House with him.

How is any of this supposed to help the poor, browbeaten, white, male voters who elected Trump?


As I indicated in my email to my Buddy the election last week has opened Pandora’s box with lots of noisome, nasty, dance on your grave results. Here’s the Trib story on the graffiti making its way into our schools and online.

I talked with Jana Hollingsworth about my views on this for thirty or forty minutes so there could be little doubt about what I was thinking. Naturally, the spare quotes from me leave out thirty or forty minutes of exposition. Jana quotes me quite accurately as saying:

“I don’t think throwing grease on the fire is going to help,” he said. “Having a dire punishment for kids abusing their free speech rights isn’t the solution.”

Let me be the first to say (as I mention every so often) I’m no Christian. However, Christian charity, so trampleded on over the past year, strikes me as the best antidote……that as well as absolutely open eyed disapproval of the post election vomitorium.

I told Jana that our district ought to employ “restorative justice” to deal with those taunting others. I think the students posting hurtful words should face the students the words are directed at.

When I ran for the School board successfully for the first time former Central student Mary Cameron and I became good friends. I would have stepped aside and let her campaign in the third District rather than run myself had she decided not to run city-wide.

Not long afterward a neighbor told me how, as a student, Mary had gotten into fights, hard fisticuffs-type fights with other girls. He had no use for Mary. I, however, squared that with the picture Mary kept in her office of the day Martin Luther King was assassinated. It was taken on the Central campus by a Duluth News Tribune photographer – a beautiful young black woman with a thousand yard stare.

Kids are hurting. Even the hurtful words by some students are evidence of some form of suffering of the taunters. I want to help in the healing process. I even told Jana that in the case of one young person who put his name on the Internet abuse he hurled she showed considerable bravery. I can respect him for this but not the anonymous bomb throwers and Internet trolls.

I’ll remember the current wickedness every time someone fan of President Donald Trump overlooks the sorry means by which Trump got out his vote. He’s our President. He’s my President although I detest the thought of it. Now all Trump has figure out is how not to become the most infamously rotten President in American History. I’m betting his ego would like to avoid this so I’ll give him a chance to rise to the level of say, a Richard Nixon. Maybe he’ll even do better than that. I wouldn’t put it past him but I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime I have to catch his goblins and stuff them back in the box.

Relishing my post-election ease

Not only do I have a weeks worth of chores from my recent trip but I face days of work printing out a thousand pages of documents I photographed from my Topeka, research. I’m also recovering from the trip’s three tech glitches. My car misbehaved twice costing me nine precious hours. First its timing chain went caput. Next I blew a tire on the Interstate north of KC at night and discovered the lug nuts were on so tight my tire iron broke in half while I tried to unbolt them. Then my computer up and died. At the moment I’m in the process of putting a new one together with all the ingredients lost with the old. Thank goodness I backed up the old computer two days before I left.

Now that I’m back I have new controversies to face like a school system that fails black kids and an election result that has emboldened poltergiests to gloat and threaten…..mostly anonymously.

Ah, but I have learned from Jana Hollingsworth that one of our high school kids has put his/her hate all over the Internet under his/her own name. I’ll be expected to do something about that. But Harry “its ‘hate speech'” Jana reminded me when I said we needed to remember it was only a kid and that vengeful punishment would only reinforce his or her unAmerican attitudes. Inconveniently, our Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees free speech despicable or otherwise. I’ll have to decide if a Facebook entry is like crying “fire!” in a darkened theater.

And of course my Buddy weighed in with a helpful observation in an email:


In response to the anonymous racist graffiti scrawled in our school bathrooms Annie had this to say:

….“We want to be clear that intolerance and hatred is absolutely not accepted in our schools,’’ Harala said, urging parents and the entire community to encourage respectful behavior at home so that flows into the schools….

“is”, instead of “are”, from the chairperson of the Duluth School Board?

Further, to say that “hatred is absolutely not accepted in our schools”, reminds me of the observation that as long as there are math tests in our schools, there will be praying in our schools. As you say, “making threats that are largely empty because of the furtive nature of the offense.”

[Your Buddy]

To which I replied:


I have some grievances against Annie. She censured me and allowed herself to be used as the excuse by others to have a vengeful, costly, prolonged and ultimately futile battle to undo the election of Art Johnston. BTW – I put my money where my mouth was and gave Art $20,000 to pay his lawyers.

That said, I’m not interested in nit picking grammar with a young woman who is still in shock over the election results. After all we elected a pussy grabbing demagogue. Whether Trump behaves that way once sworn in will be the test of his administration. I don’t expect pussy grabbing but I think it will be hard for him not to demagogue when he’s under fire. Its already worked so well for him and if I’ve learned anything about Trump its that he’s quick to resort to winning formulas. He learned the efficacy of a good offense from his mentor, Joe McCarthy’s sleazy minion, Roy Cohn.

The candidate who’s demagogic tactics you parsed like a Clinton has unleashed a lot of pent up nastiness I’ll have to deal with on the school board while you sit back in the comfort of your ********* retreat and send me emails finding fault with my every criticism of the man. I’ve already spent half an hour today explaining to the Trib’s education reporter why I have reservations about relying on “hate speech” as a justification for punishing kids in our schools. I thought that after this election was over I might be able to take it easy. Guess not. But that’s why I earn the big bucks as a school board member.


Topeka homecoming

In 2002 I visited my old Topeka home with my Mother just as Alzheimers was beginning to intrude into her life. I asked her to drive me around town to show me the seven houses her family moved to, one each year, for the first seven years her father was the Kansas State Auditor. I took their pictures, where they still stood, except for the house on Clay Street that may have fallen victim to the tornado in 1966. In two weeks I’ll be heading back to Topeka, this time as a guest of the local VFW to participate as they memorialize Mom’s father on November 11th. It will be the 99th anniversary of the battle that made him a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

For the past couple months I have been sorting and organizing documents related to his life. They fill five three-ring binders. I’ll probably come back with even more documentation because I plan to spend a couple days at the Kansas Historical Society where my Mother and her sister took his letters after his death. At the time she was quite irritated with one of the archivists who panned their gift of my Grandfather’s Medal of Honor telling them that the Historical Society had more of that kind of stuff than it knew what to do with. When I visited Topeka with her in 2002 the medal was hanging in an exhibit about my grandfather. Here’s Mom bending down to read the captions:

That helmet in the case used to hang on a wall between the garage and Grandpa’s kitchen. My cousins liked wearing it with the bullet hole next to the temple.

I also took pictures of some Topeka schools. The one on the top is Loman Hill Elementary where newly integrated students were sent to our classrooms when I was in Second grade. The photo in the middle was the segregated Buchanan School whose students were sent to Loman Hill. How appropriate that it was named for the least competent President in the Nation’s history. The bottom school was Monroe Elementary now the site for the Brown V. Board of Education National Historic site.

Black police – then and now

These two recent NPR stories on the experiences of black police are worth noting. Here’s Today’s story about a black police woman in Nashua New Hampshire. She thinks of her two year old black son getting shot by a cop while her white step daughter asks how she can to out to work after Dallas when she could be shot by a fellow black for being a police officer.

Then there was this interview in the 1970’s by Chicago’s Studs Turkel of one of Chicago’s few black policemen and what he dealt with in a hostile white police force. I am not sure it in this segment but afterward he was interviewed in 2016 and described finding human feces in his police locker.

Its tough to be a minorty kid in ISD 709

Today’s unexpected DNT story about the disparity in our treatment of white and black kids was very important. The graph showed that we have made considerable strides in bringing down out of school suspensions of black students but we’ve just had an uptick in this year of Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.

I’m reminded of a black resident who once said he was deeply appreciative of a town like Duluth that set up the memorial to our three innocent lynching victims in 1920. In recent months he’s been coming to the Board to tell us we are failing to rescue minority children from harm. This story makes it clear he has good reason to have lost heart.

That’s enough posting for tonight. I want to get another page of Isaiah read before eleven.

Breach Birth of a Nation

There was an article on the movie title turned on its ear “Birth of a Nation” in yesterday’s DNT. The original “Birth” gave birth to modern Hollywood and also helped rebirth the Ku Klux Klan. DW. Griffith’s movie was unlike any movie audiences had ever seen and it made unprecedented scads of money. Think Star Wars Squared.

It looks like I’ve mentioned the movie a couple times in this blog starting with this post. To cap off my recent labor of Hercules – cleaning my office stables – I shuffled thirty year’s worth of family memorabilia into discrete piles for each of several familial lines and put them away for future reorganizations. The pile I kept out for further work is on my Grandfather Robb who has been a constant reference point for this blog and especially so this year on the eve of the centenery of his earning the Congressional Medal of Honor.

On February 29th, Leap Day, I attended a presentation by Dr. Jeffrey Sammons at the World War 1 Museum in Kansas City who spoke about his recent research on my Grandfather, George Robb.

Dr. Sammons wrote the book on the premier American Infantry Regiment in World War 1 called the “Harlem Hell Fighters” after the German assessment of their fighting abilities. White American officers didn’t want anything to do with them, didn’t want them to fight and earn “glory” and perhaps pick up dangerous uppity notions upon their return to America. General Pershing’s solution was to give the American unit to the French Fourth Army where they managed to accomplish two things 1. win a unit citation from the French which awarded the regiment the nation’s highest military medal the Croix de Guerre and 2. single handedly bring American Jazz to Europe making it an overnight sensation.

Sammon’s, an African American himself, was more interested in the black history of the regiment rather than the white second lieutenant Robb who helped fill the regiment’s depleated officer corps on the eve of its signature battle at Sechault, France. (for year’s I mispronounced it. It’s Say show)

Anyway, my blog was out of order for three months from December 15 until the beginning of March this year so I wrote little about my preparations for our trip to Jerusalem, our travels or my subsequent trip to Kansas City, Kansas to hear Dr. Sammon’s talk. In a month I’ll travel to Topeka, Kansas where the local VFW will dedicate a small memorial to my illustrious forbearer.

So this is pretty discursive of me. Whatever happened to Birth of a Nation?

As luck would have it my Grandfather earned his Master’s degree in History from Columbia University in New York City in 1915 the year Griffith’s Birth was born. There was a huge ruckus in that city with black Harlemites fighting to prevent the KKK inspired story of Civil War Reconstruction from being played in that City’s movie houses. What I wouldn’t give to be able to ask my Grandfather about that occurence.

Well this new version of Birth of a Nation is about an infamous 1831 slave uprising led by a black minister, Nat Turner. I wrote “infamous” but that would be a white slave owner’s interpretation of events. The aftermath was every bit as appalling.

The story in the DNT mentions the book by Richard Schickel “D.W. Griffith An American Life.” I happen to own a copy of the book although its 600 pages have kept me from anything more than a little nibbling at its corners. I bought the book some years ago when I thought I’d like to write a novel treatment merging my Grandfather’s story with the infamous history of Duluth’s tripple lynching in 1920. The prospective movie Hatestorm makes that a much less likely job for me to tackle.

I’m sorry to say that the principle writer/director/actor of the movie has a Woody Allen-Roman Polanski-Bill Cosby type past. I doubt that his riposte to Griffith will leave anything like the original Birth of a Nation’s mark on the world. I can only hope that it doesn’t inspire legions of black audience members to immitate the white audiences who watched its namesake – forget the Ku Klux Klan’s sordid reputation, give it a rebirth and spread it to the North. Even to Minnesota.

One of the reviews of the book I linked to about the Klan in Minnesota says this:

The Klan embraced Protestant Christianity, and small town values. It sought to preserve America for white, Christian, Protestants and resisted what it saw as threats to this vision of America.

Sounds a little like how some voters are looking at today’s presidential election.

Madison and Monroe – state’s rights before States

Before I delivered my grandsons to school this morning I had a half dozen posts pounding on my door begging to be written and uploaded. Let’s see how many make it to the blog before the day is out.

I’ve just come in from my sun porch where I was forging ahead with the book Founding Rivals mentioned previously. Reliable Book Reviewer Kirkus describes this book as “lively, clear-cut.” It is. Both men, confronted the impossiblity of running America as 13 squabbling republics each with veto power over the whole. First friends, then foes and then friends again the two men, preside over the first resolution of the question. Madison and Monroe, the fourth and fifth Presidents of the United States, were simply among the first Americans to wrestle over the question and they were divided about the adoption of our Constitution.

Those questions continued to reverberate until the war that my hero (and the namesake of this blog) settled. But the question was like the undead. It rose again to search out more living brains to consume.

Today’s Party of Lincoln has taken up that call from the Dixiecrats who hated civil rights and fought integration. They have presided over what is being called the resegregation of the United States.

That’s enough for the first post. The next post will highlight the Grand Old Party’s latest champion.

Nibbling at my priorities

In no particular order:

A. I got this email from my Buddy and answered it. I won’t include my reply because it points a finger at a few folks and jabs hard.


This puzzles me, at
The debate about fairness and gaps was off and running again. In the end, the people on the low end of the pay totem pole lost two-bits/hr. The vote was a 3-3 tie. In the boardroom a tie is a loss for those trying to pass something. For readers counting the “yous,” there were only six Board members present. Member Sandstad had been granted another “excused” absence, though I’d bet a quarter she would have been another ‘nay’ vote with her DFL-endorsed comrades.
Why wouldn’t board members who are DFL-endorsed, be more likely to vote for the pay raise than those board members who aren’t so endorsed?

[your Buddy]

emails aren’t really priorities but common place daily experiences. Answering them all can become a priority especially after I’ve neglected going through them for a while.

B. Finishing the last half of the Pulitzer bio of Andrew Jackson will wait although I hope to add it to this year’s reading list as completed. In the meantime I found another book I’m falling in love with Founding Rivals about James Madison and James Monroe. The author is an attorney and political consultant not an historian but I fell in love with another of his books on the six living presidents who were still alive at the start of the Civil War.

He packs a lot into his books with great economy.

C. Continuing three days of searching into old newspapers from a newspaper data base which pulls out stories based on, among other things, Last names. I’ve printed out a hundred or more stories on my grandparents lineages – Welty, Robb, McLatchey, Marsh. I’m putting their histories into timelines.

D. I am persuing the Robb timeline with a deadline of the Next Armistice (Veterans) Day. I’ll be attending yet another memorial to my Grandfather this time in Topeka, Kansas. Some bricks with his name on them or something will be placed somewhere. I am attempting to put tons of material together for my own curiosity in the hopes someday of writing about him – one of the dozen books I continually threaten to write. Pay no attention to the man behind the typewriter! Maybe the Topeka VFW would like to put it in their library if I ever crank it out.

E. Gathering more information on Topeka’s history of integration. I’m sure you remember Brown vs. Board of Education. This post evidently marks at least its sixteenth mention in the blog. It made it to my old website as well – here and here.

I just sent an inquiry to the Brown v. Board of Education national historical site asking them if they could tell me the name of the segregated black school who’s students were sent to my Loman Hill Elementary in 1958 when I was in second grade. I’ll visit it when I travel to Topeka in November. BTW My father’s mother attended the original “Monroe School” (there’s that name again). She would ride her horse to it, hop off, and the horse would find its way home.

I got interested in looking this information up because Claudia is half way through one of the books assigned to a seminary class she is taking. Its the autobiography of Ida B. Wells. Ida was so fed up with the murders and lynchings of respectable black Memphis citizens that she eventually encouraged them to go west young black man. Many ended up in Topeka in the neighborhood called “Tennesee Town” that was a block from Loman Hill Elementary. Claudia finds “Crusade for Justice” a damned sight more readable than a lot of her other text books.

F. On the subject of lynchings – I just deposited my pay for playing “Mike” in the teaser which hopes to tease some money out of investors for a movie about Duluth’s famous lynching. Duluth and Topeka have ties to this event. Clayton Jackson, one of the victims was from Topeka. A Topeka attorney represented his interests in the ugly court case which followed. As Michael Fedo’s book makes clear the court was in the awkward position of finding at least one black man guilty of a rape that never happened.

BTW – Without that lynching Brown of Board of Ed might never have taken place. Roy Wilkins, a black Minnesotan was attending the University of Minnesota in 1920 and the shock of an anti-black lynching that far North made him switch his studies to law. He was instrumental in pointing the NAACP to Topeka when they began their assault on Plessy V Fergusson.

Oh yeah! And I finally got past Psalms. 137 inspired
the short story I read in high school that I mistakenly thought was meant to describe a post apocalyptic nuclear world. It was post apocalyptic just not nuclear.

As for Proverbs, the next book in line, here’s one for you: Proverbs 12:16 “Fools show their anger at once, but the prudent ignore an insult.”

Oh and one more goodie: In all the old clippings I discovered that my teacher ancestors were “elected” to their jobs. In a 1909 story which had a list of their newly raised monthly salaries ( by five dollars!) I discovered my grandmother, Winona McLatchey, (later to be Mrs. George Robb) was going to earn $50’s a month. That’s a ten percent pay raise! What was her School Board thinking?

While I’m on the subject of hair

My Mother told me this story about me.

When I was four or so she worked in downtown Topeka, Kansas decorating department store windows. She took me to a “nursery school” while she worked. We traveled on city buses. One day as I sat on my Mother’s lap I took particular interest in the black woman sitting next to us.

To my Mother’s great mortification my four-year old self asked the woman, “why is your skin that color?”

My Mother was greatly relieved by the poise and deft response of our seat mate. “Because God made me that way,” she replied.

I took that in and remained silent for a moment and then once again plunged my Mother into helpless consternation. “Why is your hair that way,” I asked.

At least I didn’t ask to touch it.

I get in my Buddy’s hair

From: “Your Buddy”
To: “Harry Welty”
Sent: Wed, 10 Aug 2016 07:27:27 -0500
Subject: 2016 Aug Blog 3 – Can I rub your hair? |
Oh, Harry:

I caught grief from “my buddy” several times for over generalizing about Duluth police falling into a national police habit of over scrutinizing blacks. In fact, I regularly have caught grief for him and yet I’m unapologetic for it. Statistics make me confident that this is routine.

“over generalizing”? Nay. You got grief from me because you asserted something about which you had no non-hearsay knowledge, and thus, for which you had no basis in fact. You weren’t there. You didn’t know what happened. If my neighbor tells me that you repeatedly beat your wife, but if I have no non-hearsay knowledge that you beat your wife, am I simply “over generalizing” if I then tell the world that you repeatedly beat your wife?

As for your statistics defense, do statistics ever establish what happened in a particular incident? Aren’t statistics, evidence of what happens in numerous and supposedly similar incidents; and if the relevant similarity is green males with only one leg; how are police “over scrutinizing”, if they focus on green males with only one leg? If you are mauled by a green male with only one leg, do you want your local police officers to focus on people who aren’t green males with only one leg? However, just because police officers then find a a green male with only one leg, doesn’t necessarily mean that that green male with only one leg, was the green male with only one leg by whom you were mauled.

Cut the bullshit. Reality simply doesn’t fit with some of the words that you use. Tendentiousness can contaminate argument.

Your Buddy

To which I replied:

Oh Buddy,

The issue of hearsay evidence is often as fraught as the identification of suspects by police line ups. Current scientific studies place great doubt on the validity of witness IDs. You are right to hold hearsay in great suspicion but my blog is not a court of law. As a blogger I’m not held to the demands of a court of law when I tell my readers what a friend has told me. Hell, I tell my own experiences all the time and I could be a serial liar. I could also be gullible and report stories I bought hook, line and sinker that have no bearing in reality. Hell, we have a Presidential candidate that fits that description and I’ve never heard you call him to account for it. Let’s hope my readers are smart enough to see through me if I ever tell them that American Muslims have jumped for joy on television at the felling of the World Trade Towers or that Mexicans rape Americans or that our President was born in Kenya.

My crime in your view was reporting that my black friend, Tim, told me he was pulled over by police a half dozen times in as many months. Its true. I didn’t ask for police documentation of this assertion before writing about it so that my post mentioning his story could be characterized as “hearsay,” but really Vic. I wasn’t taking the police to court. I was only appealing to the court of public opinion by reporting what a black guy had told me. As for your irritation with my telling my friend’s story to my blog audience – what was I supposed to do with it? Not tell it because it hadn’t been adjudicated in some formal complaint? I lent it credence only to the extent I found it credible enough to report to my small following on the blog. I give my readers enough credit to evaluate my story as I reported it and to know the difference between certainty, possibility and fraudulence.

Did I slander anyone in reporting this? No. Did I report a falsehood? No. I simply told my readers what a black fellow had told me he had experienced. I didn’t think I needed to go to the Duluth police and ask them for their records. The general tendency reported all across the United States is for black drivers to be pulled over more often than white drivers. It would be anomalous for that not to the case in Duluth as well. The probability that this statistic accurately reflects what takes place in Minnesota towns is backed up by the powerful example of Philandro Castile who was pulled over 46 times in the last decade.

By the way, Tim, who told me about being stopped so often by Duluth police, is also is the fellow that told me he’s been asked to let people touch his hair about 80 times since he moved to Duluth. Hell, I can’t recall anyone ever asking to rub my hair in Duluth over the past 42 years! My friend obviously didn’t go home and mark every such hair rubbing occasion in his diary to keep an accounting. That was simply his guess. I find his story credible even if its only been ten times and has been greatly inflated by his imagination. By reporting his recollection do you think I have similarly defamed white people in Duluth?

As to your confidence in the sanctity of American jurisprudence I have a few thoughts:

Even if a court has subjected all the evidence made available to it to the “rules of law” there is no guarantee that this process will establish “truth.” The guilty are sometime freed and the innocent are sometime found guilty and punished. This has become more obvious because of the recent avalanche of prisoners freed from prison after the discovery of their innocence. I would hope that you are as dissatisfied as I am when learning of the fallibility of our courts.

You demand more than statistics to prove my assertion of fallibility. Hell, I read history. Through America’s history district attorneys have bent the rules to convict prisoners to win law and order votes to stay in office. Judges, ditto. Police have hidden exculpatory evidence to get unsolved cases off their plate or to operate under the principle “if he didn’t commit this crime he’s getting justice for the stuff he wasn’t caught having done.” As for black Americans – for decades they were put in prison to provide cheap labor for industry under provisions such as the vagrancy laws. Today, in conservative, anti-tax locations like Fergusson, MO, they are arrested, convicted and fined mercilessly to pay for public services to spare majority citizens from onerous taxation. Tax shy conservatives have created for-profit prisons to avoid further taxes and insure that laissez faire policies keep taxes low. Oh, and high rates of imprisonment for minorities conveniently keeps lots of liberal voting minority citizens in prison and out of the ballot box especially in “Bible Belt” states that turn their back on the Christian call for redemption.

Call that all “justice” if you want and revere our court system’s scrupulous effort to establish the truth – statistical or otherwise – but I don’t think you can call it blind justice in any good sense. No, too often little ole lady justice seems to have lifted up her blindfold to make sure that black citizens get a lot more of it than the rest of us.

For most of America’s history police have been hired as the enforcers of order as much as, if not more than, to be dispensers of justice. That’s been changing dramatically in our lifetimes and I have confidence that this will continue to improve despite the current fashion to militarize the police.

If you are going to charge me with “bullshit” then I say take your blindfold off and look at reality instead of denying what you don’t want to acknowledge.

Buddy, you like to think of yourself as a great defender of the Constitution. But you know that the Constitution originally designated slaves as being no more than three fourth’s human [its three fifths] for the purpose of determining Congressional representation. This may have been a necessary political compromise 200 years ago but it was also a hideous contradiction of the Preamble to our Declaration of Independence.

Even after our Constitution was amended in the aftermath of the Civil War the “law” was miscarried to ensure segregation, and withhold the right to vote. Today the law sees to it that blacks are incarcerated at a rate that vastly exceeds that of white citizens. It occurs to me that people who brush this fact aside are only flattering themselves when they call themselves defenders of the Constitution.


2016 Aug Blog 3 – Can I rub your hair?

Its late and I’m too tired to proof read this for now. I’ll try to get to it after my men’s church meeting tomorrow morning.

Black white relations in America are infinitely better than they were when I was sent out to the playground in second grade as the black children were ushered into Loman Hill Elementary school in Topeka Kansas in 1958. But for anyone to be satisfied with a situation in which a third of the males in any particular population demographic find themselves in jail is absurd. Such satisfaction is as silly as thinking that the election of a half white President should put the past to bed.

Its probably easier for me with a 65 year time span to put things in perspective but lets get real. Dozens of black young men have been killed in instances of too aggressive policing in recent years and there have been protests and a few broken windows. When I was in high school we had the “Long hot summer.” Its been a long time since black Americans burned down their slumlord’s neighborhoods.

But our Preamble to the Declaration of Independence is still a work in progress. A couple weeks ago I took my young black friend Tim out for lunch. It popped in my head to ask him how many times since he moved to Duluth ten years ago he’d been asked by white friends to rub his hair. Tim surprised at the question gave me a bemused grin. Its been about 80 times. At least pregnant women only show for a few months of their lives for strangers to ask them to pat their tummies. How can African Americans not feel like Aliens in their own land? A few white Americans have had the similar experience of visiting the rural regions of China where locals have never seen a European and reach out to touch their blonde hair. But these visits end not the residency of black-Americans in their own land.

That point was made in Jana Hollingsworth’s story about the young black men at our Woodland Hills School. They are wary of police. My 65 year perspective included four years in college in the early 1970’s where a law enforcement degree was being pioneered. That was the beginning of college degrees becoming a pathway to the police. In short order America’s “men in blue” were no longer to be drawn from a pool of high school graduates. These would be police with some sophistication and a touch of the liberal arts about them.

I caught grief from “my buddy” several times for over generalizing about Duluth police falling into a national police habit of over scrutinizing blacks. In fact I regularly have caught grief for him and yet I’m unapologetic for it. Statistics make my confidence that this is routine pretty hard to undermine. And yet I acknowledged that our recently departed police Chief Gordon Ramsay was positively brilliant in his new home, Wichita, Kansas, when he turned a Black Lives Matter protest into a community barbecue.

Tomorrow I’d like to describe my weekend playing to the cameras. I will mention that one scene we shot during which extras dressed as prosperous 1920 white diners staring at black customers wasn’t something out of old timey days. One of our black cast members from the Twin Cities told us that when he got to Duluth for the shoot he went into one of the haunts of a lot of older Duluth residents for dinner and was greeted with what he took to be a host of suspicious stares.

Donald Trump is happy to scare us all by pointing to Minnesota’s Somali kids who are trying to enlist in a jihad. But honestly, the number of people injured in America from discombobulated Muslims pales compared to the 30,000 opioid deaths that take place in our country every year. Remaining paranoid about people of color is a lot less helpful to them or to the larger population than seeing to it that we treat each other with kindness and respect. It sure would help if we could just bridge our infamous learning gap here in Duluth for a start.

2016 Aug Blog 2- Oscar the Slouch

Start here at Aug Blog 1

Three board members were not in attendance at the start of yesterday’s meetings. Alanna and Rosie were at a conference put on by the State School Board Association but Alanna decided to hotfoot it back for as much of the meeting as she could attend.

Like the rest of us she was taken aback by the new set up with tables stretched twice their normal width. This was done to make it possible to record our Board meetings which Art, Alanna and I had pushed hard for in recent weeks. The tables were set up as an experiment before we officially make this permanent and were set up so that the three permanent cameras in the room could capture the entire front of the Board Room.

If we make this permanent the public will have the chance to watch our committee meetings and Committee of the Wholes live-streamed on TV or afterward on Youtube. I’d check now to see if that meeting was up but at the moment my Internet is down as it has been off and on since the big windstorm last week.

Alanna found much of the conference worthwhile and is one of the few school board members eager to bring her knowledge back to the rest of the Board. I believe that somewhere in our Board policy is a recommendation that we Board members do this but frankly this has mostly been honored in the breach since I was first elected in 1995.

Well Alanna sent us all an email with several attachment including a power point she found particularly enlightening on the history and performance of minority children in our public schools. It had some surprises for me and a link to a Trib column I remember not reading a number of years ago which had a fascinating bit of information related to last weekend’s cinematic project.

Robin Washington, the Trib’s former editor, wrote a review/commentary a few years back on a book “The Klu Klux Klan in Minnesota.” I wasn’t quite willing to pay $12 for a used copy and wait a week to get it so I checked and found that it was available at the Mt. Royal library. I plan to give it a look but Robin mentioned one of its several factoids that are pinballing in my head – that Police Officer, Oscar Olson, was a member of the Duluth Area klan in the 1920’s.

I’ll get to another of the pinballs shortly but Oscar. Oh geez!

One of the few good guys in Michael Fedo’s Book about the lynching was Oscar. He was an honest cop who fought off a mob of an estimated 10,000 fellow Duluthians to make sure the law took its proper course. He was a hero and, as I said, one of the few good guys in the villainous events that took place in June, 1920.

In fact, the author of the script “Hatestorm” took the literary license to presage the lynching by summoning up a fictional scene in which Oscar demonstrates that there was goodness in our fair city. After all, Only ten of our hundred thousand citizens rushed down to take the law into their hand and murder black men and Oscar certainly took his lumps trying to keep Clayton, Jackson and McGhie out of their bloodthirsty hands.

In the teaser we took a scene in which a few of the principals were good guys, including my invented “Mike” the café owner. I’m sworn to secrecy beyond that but learning about Olson’s Klan involvement was a bit of a shock. And yet perhapsin retrospect, its not all that unusual.
Neither was the information passed on by the speaker at the School Board Conference – that in the 1920’s two Duluth School Board members were Klan members.

What struck me as ironic was another factoid that was news to me. Even though Minnesota women did not have the franchise to vote in federal or state elections, Minnesota had put a law on the books decades earlier allowing them to vote for representatives of local school boards. So, the women of Duluth in the 1920’s didn’t prevent Klansman from getting elected to the Duluth School Board. That’s something worth pondering on this election day.

2016 Aug Blog 1: “Those who forget the past”

At noon I got the tiny package containing the chef hat I ordered to play Mike over the just ended weekend. As you can see its just as well I didn’t get it in time. It showed up as I was deadheading petunia’s in my patio. When I saw that it was from China I finally understood how my Amazon order could have been so cheap at $2.14 including, I presume, shipping. Coming from China the USPO had no choice but to send it on. No nasty three dollar addition of US postage.

“Ah,” I told our letter carrier. “That’s how Trump gets his ties from China into the US so cheaply.”

I can’t wait for him to get elected and teach China a lesson.

I came out to get a selfie of me in the hat to talk up my weekend portrayal of a putative “Mike” circa 1920 in the movie shoot I was cast in. Since it’s all about Duluth’s infamous lynching this selfie seemed a good springboard into that well trodden subject in LincolnDemocrat – civil rights and black/white relations.

As I left yesterday’s Business Committee meeting at Historic Old Central I carried out the tripod for our intrepid video recorder. Marcie and I are old friends who see eye to eye on very little other than the reason for the often dire straights faced by ISD 709 going back to our Let Duluth Vote days. As I shoved the case into Marcie’s SUV Alanna Oswald said “See ya later Mike.” Marcie asked what that was about so I explained in brief how I came to be on set shooting a scene about the Duluth Lynching.

Marcie turned her head in exasperation and said “we should let sleeping dogs lie” as this subject will serve no purpose but to rile folks up. It’s time we got over stuff. I was eager to get home from a long meeting so I said that this was a good subject to bring up to discuss at some future occasion.

So, I’ll bring it up here on the blog because I disagree completely. I used to pass out a business card with Santayana’s quote on the back: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

A little of the Much More to Come

Here’s some of the “much more to come” suggested at the end of the previous post.

As I type my printer is cranking out 122 pages of a full screen play for a movie tentatively titled “Hatestorm.” I’ve already printed out a sixteen page “treatment” which I gather explains how the script is meant to convey the contents of Michael Fedo’s book about the infamous 1920 lynching of three black circus workers in Duluth, Minnesota in 1920 and translating it into a theatrical script for a movie.

It turns out that this is a not only a much more ambitious project than I had imagined but one with legs I hadn’t anticipated. It will be fascinating to see if it attracts the fifteen million in production costs that have been projected. A lot of that will ride on the success of the “teaser” I will do my bit part for.

I’ll begin reading the script tomorrow as I travel to Itasca State Park for what may be a soggy camping trip with Claudia, my daughter and my grandsons. I will check out my costuming upon my return, largely a white apron and contemplate getting my hair cut to 1920’s fashion with a part down the middle of my skull. Maybe I’ll wear a chef’s hat.

I haven’t yet memorized my fifty or so words but that shouldn’t be too hard. I will do that as I consume the script and imagine how the makers of the movie go about attracting investors. I’d like to help in more ways than as just an actor for four minutes worth of celluloid or whatever its digital equivalent is these days.

As I wrote before I had breakfast in the locale of the shoot. That’s Mike’s Western Cafe on West Superior Street in the West End. Claudia and I had eggs over easy and corn beef hash. Claudia proclaimed it very good. I looked at the cooler and the juice machine and a Minnesota Twins pennant and wondered if there would be any attempt to camouflage the present to evoke the 1920’s. The prime mover behind the project, screenwriter Dale Botten, most assuredly will. He will also pay the actors. That’s something I had imagined would not happen. I’ll get a paycheck!

Well, the script is finished printing. Its time for me to rest up for tomorrow’s travels. There’s a lot on my mind – packing, the Psalms (I’ve finished the first “book” through the 41st Psalm), The attractions of voting for Hillary aside from the execrations of Don Trump, how one of my School Board colleagues may be taking credit for all the good things happening in our District as she travels the state. Yup. Lots on my mind.

I’ll be back to write about some of it in the not too distant future.