A Discussion on Passive-Aggressive Racism in Minnesota Sports.
To be fair, it isn't necessarily a racism that that pervades Minnesota, but a particular brand of political correctness and self righteousness that I find disheartening. If there was anything positive about how long segregation lasted in the South, its that the South has to face their demons every day. They contend with a constant struggle to compensate to their past grievances, but at least they confront them. In Minneapolis, we don't have those past atrocities haunting them, and the closest nation, six hours away, everyone speaks English, and it's with the same accent as we find in St. Paul. This is, after all, primarily a sports blog, so I'll keep my examples to two sports related topics.
The first is the most obvious. Ethnocentrism runs rampant worldwide, but in the United States, for the most part, we identify with those we grow up with, an advantage to eventual racial parity in the south, and a disadvantage for states that are nearly completely vanilla. Most Minnesotans live in the mega suburbia found from Minneapolis to St. Cloud to Rochester to Mankato. This, of course, translates to a predominantly white (mostly due to historical settlement, not inherent of suburbia), predominantly affluent, and generally, we keep to ourselves. So what happens when you get black athletes with poor backgrounds who like to have boisterous fun making headlines in the Twin Cities? They get traded to Miami. The best three examples of how hard it is to adapt to Minnesota's social structure are Daunte Culpepper, who after merely appearing on a boat where there was a party was labeled as a troublemaker and a poor leader. One knee injury later, and the Minnesota media laughs as if they knew all along that he was a bad quarterback, even though that's not true. Torii Hunter is a flashy fielder, a decent hitter, and almost any team would love to have him, but in Minnesota, several point to his conflict with Justin Morneau last year and the fact that he is slowing down after an ankle injury as to reasons why he should be jettisoned. Hunter is constantly in the media spotlight and gets along with fans. Of course, it isn't explicit racism that compels the fan base to be anti-Culpepper or anti-Hunter, but I believe it to be implicit. In fact, I'm sure that most Minnesota sports fans don't even realize this symptom. Until Minnesota, particularly with the media at the vanguard, confront this tacit problem, I don't see how things can improve for African American athletes. Unless, of course, they act like Kevin Garnett, the third example. He's abundantly talented and immediately has a leg up. He's quiet and hasn't adopted the hip-hop life style. In fact, he bought the big and tall shop out of all their sweater vests. The point is, he assimilated with the white suburbia that is Minneapolis.
And that leads me to my next point. Minnesotans, as with the rest of Americans, are hellbent on assimilation. This would be where the political correctness comes in. Americans are insistent upon all men being equal, which means, to most observers, everyone has to act equal. For the most part, immigrants to America all do their part to follow the American way of life. When they don't they are typically found screaming in the media about bias and whatnot. Of course, one predominant ethnic group didn't assimilate, and was virtually wiped out. And now, in their honor, we feel queasy about naming teams the Indians or the Braves or the Fighting Sioux. Of course, as Katherine Kersten has pointed out, those whom we think should be offended, aren't. Of course, we should have realized that, after the far more numerous Irish and Gaels and Scots have never voiced their opinions on having teams nicknamed after them. And really, where does the mainstream get off, saying that calling your team the Braves is offensive, when your team is named after those warriors that are emblematic of the courage and bravery a team wishes to exhibit on the athletic field. Really, wouldn't naming teams after North America's conquerers be more offensive to Native Americans? But since it apparently isn't, go ahead and rename the Kansas City Chiefs the Settlers and put the KC on a typhoid laden blanket, rather than an arrowhead.
The point is, racism is pervasive in sports, but it isn't the discriminatory racism that is easy to identify and admonish. Because of that, it isn't as easy to correct the type of racism that is damaging the Minnesota sports scene. It's both self centered, assuming that things should be like you, and self righteous, believing that what you think is wrong should translate to all peoples. If I was part of the mainstream, I would now give you a simple solution that's totally unfeasable, but since I'm not, I'll tell you the truth. There is no simple solution. Right now, I can't even think of a difficult one.