I wrote here about the City of Minneapolis’s plan to hold a series of “Sacred Conversations” commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of African slaves at Jamestown, Virginia. City employees were to be segregated by race, with “White Bodied Employees” attending one set of meetings, and “Black Bodied Employees” another. Stung, I suppose, by criticism when the plan became public, the City announced that the “Sacred Conversations” had been deferred, but not canceled.
My post drew the attention of Peter Kirsanow, a Commissioner of the United States Commission On Civil Rights. This morning, Kirsanow wrote a letter to Jacob Frey, the Mayor of Minneapolis. It comments on the utter stupidity of the “Sacred Conversations” and reminds the mayor that race discrimination is illegal. The letter is embedded below; it is brief, so I have reproduced most of it:
When planning workplace functions, it’s usually a good idea to ask, “Could this be mistaken for an episode of ‘The Office?’” Unfortunately, someone in Minneapolis city government forgot to ask this basic question.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the June 27th session was to have the theme of “recovering our narratives of oppression and liberation”. During the session, “black bodied” employees were to be separated from “white bodied” employees, ostensibly because they are the two groups who were historically affected by slavery. Does everyone automatically get either a scarlet letter or a gold star just because their skin is roughly the same shade as slave owners or slaves who lived somewhere other than Minneapolis 160 years ago? What if a black person who’s a recent immigrant is descended from slave traders in Africa? Do we send him to the “oppressor” lecture with the “white-bodied” folks, or the “victim” lecture with the “black- bodied” folks? And what about Asian and Hispanic employees? Where do they fit into the Oppression Olympics?
In addition to being galactically stupid, dividing employees by race and haranguing members of one race is presumptively illegal (Really. Not kidding. I looked it up. Shocked the heck outta me too.). Title VII makes it illegal “to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, . . or to limit, segregate or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color”. This is exactly what the City of Minneapolis proposes to do, plumbing depths of cluelessness heretofore reached only by Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute.
Commissioner Kirsanow concludes by urging Mayor Frey to cancel, not just reschedule, the “Sacred Conversations.” My guess is that the City will let the whole thing die quietly, but the race-obsessed spirit that inspired the City’s plan won’t go away any time soon. Here is Kirsanow’s letter in its entirety: