Naysayers on Minnesota Exceptionalism: you guys aren’t so great, you’re like a cold Alabama….

The original Atlantic article’s comment thread devolved pretty quickly. Steve Sailor, who is what… kind of a longtime nationally renowned race troll… leads the way, saying essentially ‘stands to reason Minneapolis is nice, it’s all white people up there.’ Which is crass at best.

But then you got Washpo, who makes that argument in a more academically respectable way…. IE “Northern European ethnic homogeneity means Minneapolis has never dealt properly with the conflicts brought by racial diversity, and it’s fails now to the extent it tries…” My paraphrase.

You know me, the recalcitrant conservative…. I am going to stand on my non-epidemiological, know it when I see it gut instinct here and say…. The Twin Cities are exceptional for a certain prosperity and pleasantness, and that both commercially and governmentally most things go right. To deny that on its face would be to… be some kind of unworldly denialist.

And the understanding of our exceptionalism does have a scholarly underpinning. The Politico article that ranked MN first comes from a blend of many meaningful quality of life indexes.

So what’s to be made of how poorly minorities are doing here? I don’t know. I do believe in such a thing as structural racism. Structural racism might bar minorities from opportunities in the way naysayers say . But I will posit something else, and this possibly having the feel of ignorant bloviating.

Understand first, the mid-20th century ethnic homogeneity of Minnesota is a fact, it was very much that way. And then grant that the way you’d like to see generational progress is a familial ladder climb from say poor, blue collar labor to educated white collar middle class affluent. My (white) family did that in MN over say the 30’s thru the 80’s. I think some multitudes of white families did that here.

Here’s my un-academic, bloviating, speculation: Most ‘original’ (for real lack of a better term that captures the nature of somewhat homogenous European settlement here since the 1850’s) white Minnesota families completed that transformation, and middle class abundance in MN was achieved so consistently that we wouldn’t have hardly any poor people left at all if we didn’t import them. And so we imported them. Black people from Chicago, who wanted to escape Chicago because it’s got hell hole ghettos. Hmongs from Laos who were refuges from the war. Somalians from Somalia who were refugees from the war.

Now it’s fair and a duty to acknowledge structural racism, but the other thing going on is that most of Minnesota’s minorities are relative if not true newcomers, and a couple generations behind on the social progression that might be expected from migration.

Just to say… I think this naysaying is a bit excessive. Minnesota is fairly fiscally liberal, with a reasonably generous social safety net and education spending. I can’t imagine we fail to do something here out of some xenophobic malevolence whereas some other city or state succeeds because they don’t have that regional character flaw.


5 thoughts on “Naysayers on Minnesota Exceptionalism: you guys aren’t so great, you’re like a cold Alabama….

    1. W.E. Peterson Post author

      My own lying eyes would tell me this is true. As far as it goes, I live in the exurbs. But Woodbury is a township over. In Woodbury, they got affluent people and broke people, white people and people of a variety of different colors, MsMansions and multi-unit housing…

  1. Joe Loveland

    This is an interesting theory: “The other thing (beyond structural racism) going on is that most of Minnesota’s minorities are relative if not true newcomers, and a couple generations behind on the social progression that might be expected from migration.”

    I don’t know that it’s true, and I don’t know that it’s false. It wonder if anyone has done any research on that question: “Compared to other states, does MN have a disproportionate number of very low-income immigrants from other countries and poverty-stricken American communities.” It doesn’t feel different to me in that way than other places I’ve lived – DC, Austin TX, Eugene — but maybe it is?

    1. pm1956

      I agree that it is interesting. It seems to me that we do have a fairly large number of Hmong and Somalis…at least as a percentage of our minority population. Of course, our minority population has been pretty small, compared to other cities our size. And we do not seem to have a particularly large hispanic population.

    2. W.E. Peterson Post author

      If in anthropology / sociology there isn’t a phenomenon defined / recognized / understood where migrants lag the broader, established population… then there ought to be, it’s that intuitive, I think. Those migrant populations are a social network in themselves, and I would posit that it may take a generation or more to make the social and commercial connections that elevate the network and integrate it into the broader population. Then they reach parity. All I can say is, I lived through it here as we started an evolution from white homogeneity, and we are still only one or two generations in on this change… and that it doesn’t figure that great big populations of rich people migrate into a place and take a seat at the top of the social hierarchy of a given place. It’s the opposite.


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