Do you witness episodes of racial intolerance in your own life?

A Somali business owner finds graffiti on his storefront. A Hmong farmer is confronted by a neighbor with a shotgun. Today’s Question: Do you witness episodes of racial intolerance in your own life?

  • Judith Main

    I adopted two Korean infants who are now grown.

    I now have two Hmong grandchildren.

    Throughout my daughter and son’s youth, they have had to deal with racial intolerance. Even today there is a gap between what we say are the values of our country and what really exists. There is lots of room for growth. Hmong farmers and their families at the farmer’s market give me hope for sustainable living and true family values.

  • Michael Kuhne

    My 17-year old daughter has experienced anti-Jewish remarks every year in school since she was in 6th grade (she enters her senior year next year). Last summer, our home was vandalized, and along with the usual toilet paper strung through the trees, we also had the star of David chalked on our garage.

  • Adam Rondeau

    I am a 29 year old caucassian male. I do not think the problem is racial intolerance so much as it is about ignorance and lack of education. Ignorant people spread misconnceptions to other ignorant people.

  • Andrew Wagner

    I was disturbed by an incident I witnessed recently in a target store. A Black employee was trying to field questions from two customers. As I approached them, one of the customers turned and walked away from him saying, “Stupid N*****!” It was particularly awkward due to being on private property and involving another customer. I feel ashamed that I let my insecurity about my rights prevent me from confronting the individual in that situation.

  • My son-in-law, a Kurdish refugee (escaping Iraq/Saddam Hussein) and new American, had his shop broken into after 9/11, ironic since his family had suffered from the same type of people that caused 9/11 (his parents and eldest brother were gassed to death by Saddam)…

  • Nathan

    These days it seems like the charge of racism has become a cheap weapon in the political realm. Often people will try to characterize their opponents as ‘racists’ in order to stigmatize them and avoid any political criticism.

    I think when the term is used in this way, it thwarts hopes of an actual dialogue on the subject.

  • Rachel Coyne

    As a mother of a racially mixed child, I have been so surprised by life in MN. Growing up in an all white family of MN hippie leaning parents, I thought we were over this. Putting my child in school was an eye opener. Bullies who singled my child out because of his race. Teachers who constantly implied my son was being bullied because of his social skills. Who would never admit race seemed to be a factor for fear of reprisal from school administration. A social worker from the school who told me that my bullied son should feel more empathy towards the bully, because my son had the advantage of two involved, loving parents. A boyscout leader who was so shocked at seeing black kids at camp, that he needed to remark on it out loud to everyone else about how “he was so sad to see they’d even made it up here.” All the other parents and leaders nodded their heads. So finally we had to move my son out of our hometown school and put him in a diverse St Paul school with mixed race kids, asian kids and black and african kids. The problems with bullying all magically disappreared – in one day – and my son is thriving. We still live in our hometown – and drive him to school. We may not live in our hometown much longer. During the last presidential election we walked into the local fire department for kid’s ATV training. The firefighters had posted Obama’s picture on the wall next to a picture of a man in blackface. All the kids stared at it. This weekend, for our city celebration one of our local businesses decided to decorate their front yard with a lawn jockey. Really?!! Right on MainStreet – in this day and age.

  • William Harrison

    I do witness these episodes, in family and friends. Recently I have seen a shift from the racism I grew up with, against African Americans & Hispanic Americans, to people now being racist towards Somolians & Hmongs. I have never understood much of this racism and even less this recent switch.

  • Tai Koma

    I have a black hooded jacket that is very shiny, with small pink flowers on it, that I was wearing under another winter coat and had anti-muslim slurs shouted at my back by people who apparently mistook the hood for a headscarf. We were the only ones out at that moment, so I doubt they were yelling at someone else.

  • Lawrence

    Absolutely, and quite frankly it is directed at several peoples of color, sometimes openly, and sometimes couched by the use of other words. The big thing that keeps getting said over and over again is how much people of color take money from white folks and don’t want to work. And it doesn’t matter where people of color come from, Chicago, Mexico, Somalia, etc. There have also been more reports in the news of racial incidents happening in communities, especially at secondary and higher education schools. My own mother in law, who is white, is convinced all poor people are on welfare, and she isn’t talking about poor whites either.

  • CC&H

    I moved from L.A. to a small street in Minnetonka and was shocked to witness a couple – he was African American; she was Caucasion – basically made so miserable by the neighbors that they ended up moving away. And even though there are only 18 houses on the entire street – not that many people really – 2 adults and a couple of the children still use the N word! Sometimes I have to wonder if, in some parts of the country, people just haven’t evolved the way they have in other, more forward-thinking parts of the country.

  • James


    I feel racially profiled by having to press ONE to here selections in ENGLISH (last time I checked this is the United States of America—we speak ENGLISH)

    When people do not follow basic laws it does not make a difference WHO you are or where you come from—get with the program.

    Not to say racism does not exist but do NOT make yourself a spectacle and please consider yourself an AMERICAN before you call yourself something else… that would help.


    PS… Thank you for never reading anything I write on the air…. it makes my finical contributions to MPR feel well worth it.

  • Kristen

    I think what I find the most distressing here is when I hear on the news this morning that a “Somali business is graffitied” and “a Hmong farmer is confronted with a shotgun” are being characterized as “Racial Intolerance”. Am I the only person here that would consider these instances as “HATE CRIMES”?? Not to mention every other example given here by other listeners. Hate-motivated vandalism and pointing a gun at someone are acts of violence and crime, hardly what any reasonably educated person would dismiss as simply “intolerance”!

    So do I witness episodes of “racial intolerance” in my life? Well, yes. I believe it to be very racially intolerant of NPR to report on violent crime and simply characterize it as “racial intolerance”, as if the people who commited these acts weren’t breaking the law and commiting hate crimes, but being simply “intolerant” of other races. That right there is a grave sign that even our news sources have a long way to go in order to have racial equality in our country.

  • Joey

    I confront my own racism each time I encounter a person of a different race. I expect I’m not alone. Somewhere along the line, we seem to have decided that the problem of racism was “solved” in the general population, with but a few stubborn holdouts keeping us from living in racial harmony. Observe your own reactions to race and see if this is true.

    In my experience, racism is universal. But questions like “Do you witness episodes of racial intolerance in your own life?” perpetuate the myth that racism is rare, making productive dialogue (which starts with the statement “I am prejudiced”) that much more difficult.

  • Khatti

    Yeah…and I’m amazed sometimes from where it comes from. I was at a tractor pull this weekend where one of my father’s friends is a contestant. He comes from about as old-line a family of Democrats as you are going to find in this part of the state–yet his brother was complaining that Obama was a Communist (God only knows what that means in this time and place) and Back (he didn’t say “Black”). To him this was a sure sign that Gabrial would be blowing his trumpet any moment now.

    I’m always amazed when racial problems arise in Minnesota. I tend to think of Minnesota as a place where ethnic pride is severely discouraged. Norwegians and Swedes tell derogatory jokes about themselves. Germans have kept a very low profile since WW I. In New Ulm, German identity did not become a matter of concern until the Seventies–when it became a cottage industry. We’ve adopted boatloads of Asian kids (I have two Chinese nieces). Yet we have incidents like those mentioned above.

    I do think part of the problem was that fixes made in the Seventies were counter-productive. Busing was supposed to teach people that: “We’re really all the same inside”. What it did teach people is that: “A child (to paraphrase the Romainian gentlemen) is the property of the state”. And that children could be used as intruments to affect and change social policy–no matter when their parents thought.

    Indeed, when I came of age in the Seventies, Racial concerns had entered the post-romantic, “Speed Limit” phase they’ve been in ever since. Both federal and state laws made racism, for all intrinsic purposes, illegal. Like the speed limit, racial equality and harmony was (in some poorly defined way) a requirement you had to fulfill. The fines for not doing so ran the gamet from actual fines and jailtime to having Keith Olberman and Jon Stewart tell the world what a douche you are. But there we definite fines, and they would be administered if you stepped out of line.

    One problem with the “Speed Limit” approach to race in America is that it’s most enthusiasitic supporters couldn’t face the reality that people complied because they were required too. They seemed to need some sort of tent-revival awakening where the sinners openly confessed their sins and then beat their bare flesh with flails until they passed out. The fact that this little scenerio has never come to pass is held up as proof that there is still racism in America. Perhaps it is proof. Another problem is that the supporters didn’t seem to realize that they were ending the discussion they seemed to want so badly to have. Highway cops do not waste your time and theirs with pointless discussions about: “How you feel about the speet limit”; it’s the law, end of story. People in the Civil Rights movement feel the need for some sort of discussion–the sort of discussion that making something legal or illegal are supposed to end. I’ve never figured this one out.

    Will racial tolerance ever come to America? Yes to the extent that racial intolerance will morph, or be replaced, by some other problem. London is not devided into the Saxon and Norman sides of town, but questions of class still abound there. Social progress may very well be the process of replacing old problems with new problems.

  • Alisia Brown

    Yes, I have experienced “racial intolerance” as an African American. I think what is harder than the actual intolerance, is the fact that when you report it, it’s usually to another white person. That includes when you go to the EEOC. Most white racial intolerance continues because the people doing know you have little or no recourse. The process of having to report employment racial intolerance is, I feel designed to make you give up. In my case, my employer called my cell phone and verbally harassed me to the point of the police calling it a “hate crime”. He plead guilty to harassment and the EEOC (even with recorded evidence, found no wrong doing!

  • Kit Donnelly

    Like the force, racial intolerance surrounds us, binds us. An atomic bomb of racial intolerance exploded during the 1960s and radiation from that explosion remains. There will be no Yucca Mountain for this one. We cannot spend our way out of it. Only time and ample sunlight, illuminating the more egregious instances of this destructive disease, will cure our lingering ailment.

  • Susan WB

    People have always feared and disliked “the other.” There’s good reason to believe it’s part of human nature – left over from our days of hard scrabble survival on the plains of Africa, when “the other” really was a threat. Our challenge now is to overcome that legacy and understand that all people are human and like us, worthy of being admitted into the circle of people who are “not other.” Frankly, reading these comments, I’m not hopeful. I think our society is becoming less and less civil overall – our political discourse is horrendous, and we have no respect or civility left for anyone who thinks differently than we do. It’s from all corners. I wonder if it’s an effect of the disgusting mess that is online anonymous comments. Is the hatred and vitriol so rife in that forum now spilling over into real-world interactions? I see so many just plain evil comments about the President, his wife, and yes, even his CHILDREN online that just disgust me, and would disgust me even were I a Republican. After experiencing no consequences for online hate speech, are people getting braver about voicing their hate speech (and hate actions!) in their communities, too?

  • John

    I grew up in Texas with a lot of family in Arkansas as well. When I moved to Minnesota some ten years ago, I was shocked by the number of racist comments I heard on a weekly basis. I must admit that I only recall hearing one comment while growing up in Texas and only a few while visiting family in Arkansas.

    Given the superiority that the Upper Midwest seems to hold over Southerners, this (along with the achievement gap) is one that needs to be worked on.

    I’ve always thought that perhaps the small amount of a minority population in Minnesota is to be blamed. But really there is no excuse.

  • KK

    Being someone who grew up in Pakistan, I walk with this emotional baggage of being somehow related to the people who were responsible for the events earlier in this decade. I am judged, looked at, based on where I hail from and not who I personally am. On a daily basis I can sense the intense level of negativity or comfortableness as I walk past people. While in no way directly or indirectly responsible for the actions of those state-less actors who have been responsible for these evil-activities, I feel that I need to prove myself even more and adapt to the “American” way to perhaps, maybe in some little way or another, I can convince the person I am talking to or interacting with that I am just like them. Its a sad world when people of different backgrounds need to act in a certain way to prove that they may be better than initially assumed, but to be accepted in the society, you can’t stand out. I have heard everything that could have been said about me, been called all sorts of names and sadly I am forced to just turn my back and walk away. I hope the next generations don’t have to deal with this sort of negative reaction. I hope for people to accept people from different backgrounds and not judge them for what someone who had the same skin color as them or had the same facial features did at some point in the future. I can assure you that such negative behavior only increases the backlash and does not help anyone. May Peace Reign On Earth!

  • Amy Bodnar

    I have experienced racism as a primarily white person. I have heard white people use the “n” word about our President, I hear people who talk terribly about Native Americans, Mexicans, Latinos, Somali’s, Buddhists, Islamic and Muslims. I have heard people make jokes about shooting Hmongs. While door knocking in 2008 people told me that they were not going to vote for any “N.” This was mostly up in the 6th Congressional District in Anoka, Ramsey, Elk River, Big Lake. These same people voted in Michelle Bachmann. I find it extremely offensive and tell them so.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Here’s what I think. A half a million years ago, there were two or three other species of hominid (neanderthals, etc.) sharing the planet with us, but not today. What happened to them? Did we simply out-compete them? More likely, I think, we exterminated them. Our apparently innate propensity to hate those who are similar-but-different gave us a darwinian advantage over more gentle hominids. The others are gone, but the hate-genes are still there. Now, having run out of other hominids to exterminate, we magnify differences among ourselves so as to have someone else to hate. If we don’t learn to do better than our genes program us for, we may one day exterminate ourselves.

  • Travis

    Growing up in Rural Minnesota I encountered numerous racial disgust. Though it may have not been physical but it was often portrayed in jokes, conversations, high school, parties, and even at numerous jobs that I have held.

    I feel that since rural MN is predominantly white it leads to this lack of racial equality that I have often encountered.

    It is sick and disgusting that we continue to ignore this and it is no longer a one way crime. it seems that it has grown within all races towards all races. We claim to be growing in intellect but why do we lack the vision to see that we all eat, breath, and walk on two legs just like the man or woman next to us. True we all are different whether it be color, religion, intelligence, or income but why do these things have to create such sickened barriers between us?!?!?

  • T Turner

    I was highly offended and feel effected by racial intolerance regarding a comment about today’s question.

    “Yes, I have experienced “racial intolerance” as an African American. I think what is harder than the actual intolerance, is the fact that when you report it, it’s usually to another white person.”

    Posted by Alisia Brown

    Why would you naturally assume that the “white person” that you reported your issue to, would give you the same injustice that the perpetrator did?

  • Curt

    I frequent an on line chat room, and I see numerous racial slurs there every day. Particularly from St. Cloud participants. They use unfounded rumors and anecdotes to base their prejudice on, and are quite open and at times even proud of their racism and prejudice. It truly sickens me that people that have had little or no contact with the Somali community in St. Cloud are so willing to spew hate and misunderstanding.

  • Mary

    Yes to be honest with you. I feel like starting a “Pull up your pants” campaign. Maybe that’s more of a style thing than a racial thing, but I sure am sick of seeing other peoples undiesl.

  • Anonymous Coward

    I do believe there is racial discrimination that happens all the time. Since I’m white and and a native born American, I must be racist.

    I believe that we should speak more than just our native language, but since this is our country, why can’t people who come here to live and work also speak our language (ENGLISH that is!)? If you go to the countries where an immigrant came from, how long would you last without speaking their language? Not very long! I have spent quite a bit of time working under stressful conditions with people who don’t even bother to learn the language of the country they live in! They say “Why should I?” (through an interpreter) like they don’t need bother with it, everyone bows down to them anyway. This is absolutely and stupidly ridiculous!!! In the Twin Cities, there are 80+ languages spoken! That means, emergency workers need to speak all 80+ languages, just because immigrants refuse to bother to learn our language, again try a different language only in their native country – it certainly would not fly! And Yes, I do speak another language, that of my heritage (one rarely heard in Minnesota any longer); I speak it very poorly, but at least I have tried! I have also used it overseas. If I need to speak a “native” language of this country, then I’ll try learning Chippewa, Ojibwa or another Native American language. But ENGLISH is the language of the United States of America! I find it very INSULTING when people who have lived here more than 10 years don’t even bother to try learning our language!!!

    And, as another poster mentioned, I have made comments several times with MN Public Radio not bothering to read my comments. Apparently they only like my money, not my opinions, despite what they say on the radio.

  • Arturo Cruz

    I’m really surprised by the amount of really open racism that I ‘ve seen here since moving here in 2008. I’m especially surprised by the amount that comes from the local radio stations. During the 2008 election I heard Tom Bernard state that Barack Obama’s favorite dessert should be watermelon, also on that program I heard that Miami’s problems with squatters were due largely to Cubans, and Thai’s are the most corrupt people on Earth. Just recently on 93.7 the on air folks were talking about JJ Abrams while in the background someone called out “Jew”, to which the on air folks said bless you. I think the racism prevalent on the radio explains a lot of the racist attitudes and bumper stickers I’ve encountered here since a lot of people have grown up listening to that.

  • I witness racial intolerance AND racism in my daily life. As a white mother of two Latina children I have heard their intelligence and behavior called into question simply because of their skin color. As a teacher I have heard other teachers make comments about students in their classes and their ability to achieve based on their skin color. At what point do people get it?

  • elisabeth fisher

    Cannot begin to count the revolting, destructive racism I have witnessed in fifty years of being in Minnesota. I am not going to start listing. My nervous system could not handle the memories. I am white with mostly white family and friends, and a high percentage of racism — I wish we wouldn’t call it that — that has harmed my spirit is of the white supremacy type. But I have been on the receiving end from almost every nationality and skin color. Lord please save us.

  • David Poretti

    Every day. Every single day.

    In political discourse and policy, in the media, in the way business does business, in the way people act and react to each other and various cultures.

    I’m not talking just about overt racism, but the subliminal racism that has been woven through-out our society as well.

  • Bill A.

    I know I very late to the party on this but MPR should think about bring author Tim Wise on to tlak on this very subject.