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ENEWS: Privilege & Racism in the Rural Midwest and Rural Broadband

Date Published: 12/23/2020

Author: Jane Leonard

White privilege & anti-racist initiatives in the rural Midwest

In a recent StarTribune opinion piece, “How young men of color mattered to a rural Midwestern community,” Cary Radisewitz of Luverne, MN, describes a few of the disturbing instances of blatant racism in a small South Dakota town and its neighboring communities during his time as the Huron (SD) University’s head football coach. He also provides important examples of how white dominant communities have been working and must continue to work tirelessly to not only recognize and understand our own privilege, but also “get personally involved in welcoming of newcomers and in anti-racist initiatives.”  Radisewitz notes that a good resource is the generation-long efforts of the Southwest MN Initiative Foundation (SWIF), and "Grow Our Own" — their current 10-year project to equalize opportunities for all young people in the region. SWIF is one of the partners in co-creating the Minnesota Equity Blueprint published by Growth & Justice this year.

What else we’re reading this week 

Recent stories in MinnPost (linked below) provide timely and concerning updates on the new federal funding for rural broadband nationwide and in Minnesota. Of the $9.2 billion in national broadband grants that the FCC recently announced, Minnesota will receive $408 million, intended for improving internet in rural areas. LTD Broadband, a small company based in Las Vegas, NV (registered to do business in MN) received $312 million of the funds slated for Minnesota. The FCC decision bypassed many of the companies and cooperatives in Minnesota that have the long-term experience and expertise to hit the ground running (Paul Bunyan & Arrowhead Electric did receive a much smaller portion of the FCC funds and have extensive experience in rural broadband provision). Broadband experts and advocates are worried that LTD does not have the capacity and expertise to fulfill the pledges it made for broadband provision in Minnesota, and across the country. 

A few final notes 

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty recently released a fact sheet on racism, homelessness, and COVID-19 that provides a summary of these interrelated issues. 

And in next week’s newsletter, we’ll provide an end-of-year summary to review what we’ve accomplished at Growth & Justice throughout the turbulent and stressful 2020. Make sure to stay tuned for that, as well as a rough draft of our legislative priorities, which we aim to send out for your review in early January.  

Quote: 

“First thing, many more of us rural white people need to accept that we do enjoy privilege, compared with people of color….This doesn't mean our lives haven't been hard…. But life has also taught me since then that my whiteness gave me the benefit of the doubt and a presumption of innocence in white rural America, while young men of color all too often are presumed guilty or viewed with extreme prejudice here.” — Cary Radisewitz, “How young men of color mattered to a rural Midwestern community.” 


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