The Associated Press
Minneapolis Star Tribune, Nov. 8
An unnecessary swipe at Native Americans
Until this year, November recognition had been distinctive.
Native Americans and others gathered recently at what has become a joyous annual ritual for the native community — the Twin Cities E.A.T.S.S. event that celebrates indigenous cuisine and raises awareness for the American Indian College Fund. As this year's patrons settled in with smoked bison and dishes flavored with cedar and juniper, listening to stories of achievement by young Indian students heading to careers in law, medicine and other fields, there was only one downbeat note.
In announcing the program, the moderator said that historically, November has been recognized as National Native American Heritage Month, a source of pride in that community. This year, she said, President Donald Trump had also pronounced November to be the first National American History and Founders Month. In that proclamation, no mention was made of the previous 15,000 years of history by this land's first inhabitants.
A momentary pall fell over the room. No angry outbursts, just a lot of grimaces acknowledging yet another wound.
This was a needless hurt inflicted by a president who so often seems to find a way to do just that. He had already renewed the Native American proclamation, as has every president before him since 1990. How cruel then, to force Native Americans to share even that small gesture with those responsible for taking their land and for all the atrocities that followed.
It should be pointed out that the first proclamation came from Republican President George H.W. Bush, who started by noting that long before Europeans arrived, "This great land has been cultivated and cherished by generations of American Indians," who "developed rich, thriving cultures." He paid homage to "the many outstanding achievements of this country's original inhabitants and their descendants."
Raymond Burns, president of Leech Lake Tribal College, said that the sudden founders announcement "felt like a repudiation of how far the country has come, to acknowledge its history with Native Americans, that we exist not just historically, but contemporarily. It just glosses over everything Native American Heritage Month is trying to do."
Trump's founders proclamation urges "a deeper understanding of our American story." But we should be done with the sanitized, Disneyfied version taught earlier generations. Yes, take pride in the many accomplishments of this nation, but there is much to be gained from acknowledging the grievous wrongs that are also part of that history.
The Free Press of Mankato, Nov. 8
DHS: Legislative auditor, not committee, should review paperwork violations
Why it matters: Minnesota Department of Human Services didn't follow its own procedures and therefore erodes confidence in its work.
We're usually the last to let government off the hook when it fails taxpayers or falls short of its responsibilities, but recent reports of the Minnesota Department of Human Services not filling out paperwork on legitimate and approved spending appear to be bureaucratic malaise more than intentional fraud.
The department violated 50 to 150 rules and laws in allocating about $52 million of its $18 billion in spending, according to reports by news organizations.
Most of the violations involved not filling out proper paperwork or missing a deadline. There were no charges of misspent funds or fraud.
In fact, in some cases, Minnesota Department of Human Services workers bypassed paperwork to get things done, like keeping homeless shelters open while funds were on the way, but not approved. In other cases, work was started on contracts before all the i's were dotted and t's crossed.
And while the Senate GOP Finance Committee led by Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, has jumped on the case to hold hearings to investigate every such paperwork violation of every state agency, it was the Legislature itself that caused one violation delay because it had not yet approved funds, according to a report in the Pioneer Press.
Minnesota Department of Human Services approved $3.5 million to homeless shelters even though the Legislature had not yet approved the funding as it was missing its own deadlines on May 25. Had Minnesota Department of Human Services workers followed the letter of the law, homeless shelters would have closed, according to a report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The total violations also appear unclear as state laws allow Minnesota Department of Human Services to go back on uncompleted contracts and approve them after the fact as long as they go to the intended use. In fact, more than half of the 200 violation reports involved employees spending before prior approval, but it's unclear if the law was actually violated because employees filled out papers to later justify the normal expenses.
And no money is actually paid out until contracts are complete. Work simply began before the money came.
No one is saying the Minnesota Department of Human Services shouldn't vastly improve its procedures and follow its own paperwork rules. And with about 190 paper violation reports last year, it appears the problem is getting worse.
Deputy Legislative Auditor Christopher Buse said DHS should have notified the auditor about missteps that he said seemed "widespread." Rightly so. It's also important to note all the violations in this case were self-reported by Minnesota Department of Human Services employees.
So it's a bit of overreach to hold partisan legislative hearings for days and days to investigate an agency that didn't follow paperwork procedures for 0.03% of its budget.
A more thorough and less partisan review by the legislative auditor's office seems more appropriate.
Minnesota Daily, Nov. 3
Having a minority opinion is not the same thing as belonging to a minority group
To actually have a conversation about bias against political groups, we have to dismiss any comparisons to marginalized communities.
There have long been complaints in the sphere of liberal college education in the United States that there is a bias against conservative students from their vastly liberal peers and professors.
Though without expansive enough data to back it up, the idea that that bias exists and somehow leads to lower grades and social alienation for conservative students is salient, particularly on this campus. Two years ago, the College Republicans' mural on the Washington Bridge read "Least Popular Minority On Campus."
Liberals aren't free from this train of thought either, even though it applies less on a large public university campus. Comedian Hasan Minhaj joked in his 2017 White House Correspondents' Dinner speech about how journalists need to start thinking like a minority group, "By the way, you guys aren't really minorities; you guys are super white. But, but — I could see MSNBC being like, 'We got our minority card.'"
For some reason, liberals, conservatives and plenty of people with opinions in between want to gain a minority-like group status, depending on their environment and where they live. They feel deserving of the same treatment as an actual marginalized community.
Political belief is an opinion. It's a choice. Race, sexuality, disability — these aren't choices. You can decide to change your political beliefs, but you can't decide to stop being a certain race. There is a marked difference, and it's insulting to pretend like it doesn't exist.
There should be a conversation about the ways members of each political party are generalized by the opposition. There are valuable things to be said about how political conversations operate on college campuses, in rural high school classrooms and even on the news.
However, if you want to have those conversations, you're doing a disservice by pretending that it's on equal footing with other forms of discrimination. Feeling uncomfortable or alien in a room full of people who disagree with you politically is a valid feeling, maybe one that deserves exploration, but that feeling is not a permanent one.
Feeling hurt or defensive of your politics isn't marginalization, no matter where you stand on party lines. You don't know what it's like to be a minority unless you are one. There's a difference between individual prejudice and systematic oppression.
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there are going to be times where you're the odd one out in a situation, or maybe a lot of situations. We shouldn't shy away from a discussion the isolation of political parties and unwillingness to try to understand the other side fully and the bubbles of belief that follow.
However, if you want that conversation to be taken seriously and given credence, don't pretend it's comparable to racism, homophobia, or any other community that's been brutalized and silenced over the course of human history. Trying to parallel your experience won't help your cause, only hurt it.
Note: This article is republished from Associated Press under a Creative Commons licence.