Friday, April 22, 2016

A long conversation that brings us here for now

For the purposes of the pragmatics of human communication, it is again quite irrelevant to ask why a person should have such a premise, how it came about, or how unconscious it may be. - Watzlawick, Bavelas, and Jackson, The Pragmatics of Human Communication: A Study of Interactional Patterns, Pathologies, and Paradoxes


50 years ago
James Meredith hit by a shotgun blast.
A few weeks earlier, James Meredith, who in 1962 was the first black student admitted to Ole Miss, had been wounded by a shotgun blast. He had just begun a solitary voting rights march from Memphis, Tennessee headed down Highway 51 for Jackson, Mississippi. It was called the "March Against Fear" and everyone was scared. - "Itta Bena, Mississippi | Summer 1966"

17 years ago

Back in May 1999 Olmsted County led the formation of a 21st Century Partnership to research and propose what it would take for Olmsted County to be a leader in the 21st Century. 
The 21st Century Partnership Task Force on Diversity called for improving the internal diversity performance of community institutions and ensuring that institutions in the community include diversity as a priority in their own planning and programming. The network of relationships that knit the majority community together should be made accessible to the minority communities in the community as well. Strategies to extend opportunities for greater civic involvement to minorities could include:
  • involvement in neighborhood groups,
  • appointment to citizen committees serving local government
  • recruitment by service clubs
  • involvement in non-profit board
  • involvement in interest groups such as the League of Women Voters, and
  • involvement in committees advising business organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce"

6 years ago

In 2010, Mayo Clinic partnered with the Rochester Public Library to bring the national touring exhibit "RACE: Are We So Different?" to Rochester, Minn. The exhibit was free of charge to the public. 
The RACE exhibit explores the issues of race and racism in the United States and is designed to appeal to people of all ages, interests and backgrounds. It was developed by the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota and funded by the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

7 months ago

"Dear Mr. Munoz"

Two weeks ago

"I guess maybe ... maybe, we could have done better with a couple more women on that committee to make it a little more equitable," he said. "If anything was done wrong, it was unintentional. We weren't looking to stack the deck, one way or another." "Is 'Heart' committee diverse enough?" Post-Bulletin 04.07.16

Monday afternoon

"DMCC board member Susan Rani asked how the process is working to meet women- and minority-owned business participation requirements, mandated by DMC legislation..... 
Rani pushed for more inclusion of women and minority businesses early in the planning processes, not as an "add-on" to be considered later in the process." "$1.8 billion in infrastructure planned with DMC" Post Bulletin 04.21.2016

Wednesday evening

photo credit: The Med City Beat
More than 50 community members and city leaders packed into the Rochester Public Library auditorium Wednesday evening to discuss the state of the city's various appointed boards and commissions — and what can be done to improve the diversity of each. "Diversity discussion brings out concerns, ideas" The Med City Beat 04.21.2016


In other words, it is no longer possible to say "if anything was done wrong it was unintentional." 

The "An inclusive Rochester: How do we get there?" forum was a remarkable event with great credit to the folks and sponsoring organizations that pulled it together very quickly. A sizable and inclusive turn-out. Diverse across many spectrums. With broad and deep consensus across the smaller discussion groups regarding their concerns and their proposed responses to those concerns.

It is important to recognize that our current system of appointments to city boards and commissions places a heavy burden on whoever occupies the Office of the Mayor. We can raise serious concerns about that process without characterizing the competence or character of its current occupant. The challenges and problems raised this evening were structural and systemic.

The gathering Wednesday evening should not be - as was suggested at its close - the beginning of a "long conversation". Rather it was a moment in a conversation on diversity and inclusion that is already long and will continue. But in the moment on Wednesday evening that long conversation raised a specific concern that can be addressed concretely in its particulars.

Once the disparate outcomes in city board and commission appointments being produced by an imperfect process have been made clear, continuing to use that process makes those who do so complicit in the outcomes it produces.

Bringing us to here for now

It is now time for the mayor and the council to carry this conversation forward. Sooner rather than later. They cannot put an end to it once and for all, but they can act on it here for now.

There were four council members present Wednesday evening. They have heard for themselves first hand what concerns citizens have. They probably heard - as did I - from people they had not heard from before. That should itself say something to all of us. If they heard what I heard they heard people speaking from their heads and their hearts. Speaking frankly and thoughtfully with conviction and passion and a little humor.

On this issue, we can move as quickly as the mayor and the council choose to do so. We can take the work of this community forum and move it into the work of city governance - into the deliberative and legislative process that can guide us toward productive and positive reforms.

We are constantly reminded that it takes four council votes. On Wednesday evening were four council voters inspired to broaden the most important franchise we have - the enfranchisement of the governed? Will they see that they serve that franchise best by empowering it?

Maybe they will come to understand that we cannot have an inclusive city if it is not inclusive at its governing core.

No comments:

Post a Comment