See more of the story

Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


In a recent commentary, Myron Orfield called the idea of culturally affirming schools "Orwellian" ("100,000 Twin Cities lives ruined by segregation," Opinion Exchange, June 5). As a second-year business student at Howard University, an HBCU established to provide Black students access to high-quality education that overcomes systemic racial discrimination by affirming students for who they are, I'm alarmed by this take and related attempts to shutter schools with predominantly Black students.

Certainly there are systems that continue to keep neighborhoods and schools segregated. But Orfield misses the mark on the crux of the problem when he defines a segregated school as having over 60% students of color. Is a school with 20% Black, 20% Hispanic, 20% white, 20% Asian American and 20% Native American students segregated? When communities of color are seeking culturally affirming school options like St. Paul's Txuj Ci Hmong Language and Culture, Minneapolis' Emerson Dual Language or Friendship Academy of the Arts — a local charter that serves Black students — are these options we should foreclose?

Segregation should refer to barring students of color from predominantly white schools, not result in penalizing communities of color for creating affirming spaces. Whether through policy or brute force, white people have had a sordid history of determining where kids of color are able to learn. Orfield's views continue this unjust tradition. While integrated schools benefit students as part of a larger vision for education, it's unfair to place the burden of integration on communities of color. Disrupting the environments of the historically oppressed while leaving white spaces generally intact shifts responsibility unfairly.

To truly improve schools for kids of color, policymakers must engage directly with families and students of color. Culturally affirming schools, like the HBCU I chose for my graduate degree, play a crucial role in helping all students reach their potential and are an essential part of our solution.

Joshua Crosson, Minneapolis

The writer is the executive director of EdAllies.


Orfield makes a case for segregated schools as the cause of achievement gap between white and Black students. How could he have missed absence of a father in the home?

Devaluing of marriage and the unintended consequences of government subsidies for fatherless homes have produced disproportionate effects on the Black community and clearly correlate with educational failure, poverty and incarceration in the children, especially boys.

Integration alone is not powerful enough to make a difference. What is needed is a radical return to traditional values — that were traditional because they worked.

Ross S. Olson, Richfield


Design your own symbols, please

Is there nobody within the Trump movement with the tiniest hint of creativity or design skill so that its supporters can come up with their own flag instead of co-opting other historical banners? First the Tea Party took the Gadsden flag (the coiled snake with the "Don't Tread on Me" slogan). Then they grabbed a version of the Betsy Ross 13-star U.S. flag. Now Trump supporters are using the pine tree "Appeal to Heaven" flag, originally a revolutionary naval ensign for ships out of Massachusetts.

People fought and died with these flags for our independence and the liberties we all enjoy today. They are important historical symbols of a world-changing set of ideals and time. We should not allow them to be seized for modern political grievances. When the mayor of San Francisco — which is admittedly a city that sometimes does some weird things at the drop of a hat — took down the pine tree flag from a 60-year-old display of historical flags, she misguidedly surrendered our rights to this important emblem and replaced it with the American flag. A white sheet would have been more appropriate.

Similarly, it's time to change the U.S. flag code to remove the upside-down distress display. This was meant for ships at sea or distant forts in severe danger of loss of life or property at a time when there was no other means of communication. We have radios now. Though flying it upside-down or backward, putting Trump's picture on it or even burning it is and should remain protected speech, it should be clearly established that these are nevertheless disrespectful and destructive actions.

It seems most of these modern populist movements have shown little original thinking beyond whining, grievance and disruption, and they surely have the right to publicly and peacefully demonstrate those characteristics. But we would prefer to see the smallest amount of originality and have them come up with their own flags and symbols.

Dennis Fazio, Minneapolis


Dimick's unfair depiction

The column about Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty by Martha Holton Dimick, Moriarty's unsuccessful election rival, sure sounds like the gripes of a sore loser ("What I've observed about my 2022 opponent," Opinion Exchange, June 6). For example, she suggests that Moriarty is a liar, and unethical, without giving us evidence. If she thinks a lawyer is unethical, she could submit the facts, if any, to the Lawyers' Professional Responsibility Board instead of smearing her in the paper.

I have known and worked with Moriarty since 1988. She is a superb lawyer. She does not have a diplomatic personality, and she has made some mistakes as county attorney. But she has some good ideas that deserve a fair hearing. Take a juvenile who commits a violent crime: Many people want him put in an adult prison for 20 years. He's in his 30s when he gets out, a wrecked person, and then what? She has been willing to look at this issue squarely and try a different route to justice.

Or take police accountability. When an officer unnecessarily beats a suspect, and the city pays out a million dollars, as happens often, does the officer get charged with assault? Not likely under the old regime. If there is a questionable shooting by an officer, was it a crime? Moriarty looks at the situation head-on.

I worked in our criminal justice system for almost 40 years, and I can testify there is a lot wrong with it. Moriarty is not perfect, but she has some answers to some baked-in problems, and she should be treated with much more respect than she gets from Dimick.

John Stuart, Minneapolis


I was saddened to see the response to Moriarty's comparison of the governor's communication with the previous county attorney, a straight man, and with her, a queer woman ("Governor's supporters reject Moriarty claim," June 5). If Moriarty's description of the difference is accurate, it bears considering why Walz's communication style was more private with former County Attorney Mike Freeman and more publicly critical with Moriarty, and why he hasn't he spoken with her about his concerns directly.

We all have unconscious biases, biases that go against our most dearly held beliefs. Is it possible that the cultural scripts that we have around women in power, and specifically queer women in power, had some bearing on how Walz interacted with Moriarty?

Walz can be a champion for LGBTQ+ rights and still behave in an unsupportive manner toward a queer woman leader because of an unconscious social bias. That would make him human. Having homophobic behavior called out is painful. But isn't it healthier for our community to recognize when someone exhibits unconscious bias so we can work to be better? Otherwise we are doomed to maintain the very structures that preserve the discrimination that we want to undo.

Hugh Smeltekop, Minneapolis