Featured in the Sun Sailor
It’s the season for graduation parties and celebrations. The Minnetonka High School Class of 2017 has graduated. My son is one of this year’s graduates, my third to graduated from Minnetonka. Three down, two to go in our household.
A few days before the official end of the school year, a 17-year old Minnetonka student was arrested for posts he allegedly made to the social media platform Snapchat. The student threatened to shoot Minnetonka students of color and urged white students to stay home.
The 17 year old was arrested quickly. Early reports stated that the student didn’t intend to carry out any kind of shooting. He was just trying to get out of taking his final exams.
Minnetonka High School finished its last few days with an increased police presence and offers of help for anyone who felt they needed to talk to someone after such a threat. Otherwise, it was business as usual.
On Facebook parents were sharing their thoughts and concerns. Some parents were still going to keep their students home even after the arrest, most parents were comfortable sending their kids to school knowing the incident was an incredibly bad hoax.
On Facebook I read comments from parents of minority children who expressed concern over racism at Minnetonka High School. A few shared specific examples of things that happened to their own children or other minority children they knew.
Many parents responded, denying that there is racism at Minnetonka High School. From what I could gather, the parents denying the racism were parents of Caucasian kids. A few of the comments back and forth become quite heated.
I’m multi-racial. I have a Hawaiian, Chinese, American Indian, Portuguese, Scottish and Irish background. I have darker features. My children look very Caucasian, and have not experienced any type of racism directed at them, though they have witnessed it directed at others.
Personally I don’t feel there is a problem with racism at Minnetonka High School as a whole. There are individual racists, and some who are ignorant as there are in any community. The vast majority of students and faculty are inclusive of different minorities. Every community is going to have a few ignorant people. This doesn’t mean it is ok, my point is that Minnetonka is not immune to this.
This does not mean incidents of racism do not occur. When a parent of a child who is a minority or an individual who is a minority shares an incident of racism, remember that because you or your child never experienced it, does not mean it didn’t happen.
Racism, cultural insensitivities, offensive stereotypes, all have a spectrum. I’ve experienced it myself in our community. Just a few weeks ago I was getting my Jeep washed at a carwash in Excelsior. While it was being vacuumed I got out to help dry it off as I often do. The guys do a great job, but I like to hit certain parts with more detail.
Most of the employees at the carwash are Hispanic. Because I’m dark and many people have not been to Hawaii where they would recognize my nationality, I’m often mistake for a Hispanic or African American.
A man was picking up his car, which looked like it had just been detailed. He walked up and asked me if I knew where his keys were. He saw a dark skinned person with dark hair wiping down a jeep and assumed I was also an employee.
I see many people helping to dry their cars as I do when I’m at the carwash. Though I can’t guarantee it, I’m very confident in saying that if I had blonde hair and lighter skin he would not have assumed I was an employee and asked me where his keys were.
This is a minor incident, but it happens more often than you might think. More than one time I’ve had people try to give me their empty plates at a function where I was a guest.
I’m not saying that these incidents mean the people who made assumptions about me are racist. My point is that though we have come a long way in terms of equality for minorities, we need to continue to evolve.
When you have never experienced ignorance or racism, it is easy to assume it does not exist in your community. One bad apple does mean the whole bunch is rotten, but we have a way to go in terms of seeing people as human beings and not making assumptions about who they are based on skin tone.
How would you feel if you were robbed while walking down the street in Excelsior, but when you told people you were robbed their response was, “Well I’ve never been robbed or seen anyone robbed, so there is no way you were robbed.”
What if you grew up being robbed so much that it was something you realized you just needed to work around? You might become apathetic or frustrated at the lack of understanding of what it means to walk in your shoes. You might be sensitive or passionate about the subject or being robbed.
An open heart and an expression of understanding goes a long way.
My adventures in living life perfectly imperfect are featured in the Sun Sailor, The Lakeshore Weekly News and South Lake Neighbors Magazine.