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Solution Paper #34, posted August 27, 2009
Originally published in November 2002,
in The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes,
by Ron Edwards


Not Losing Sight of the Prize of Equality's Freedom

Without economic participation and equal access and equal opportunity for prosperity, the past will continue to be repeated. Whites may be willing to pay that price. I am not. This is evidence from studies around the world, from Peter L. Berger, The Capitalist Revolution: Fifty Propositions About Prosperity, Equality, & Liberty (Basic Books, NY, NY, 1986, pp. 211-215).

Proposition #1: Industrial capitalism has generated the greatest productive power in human history

Proposition #5: Advanced industrial capitalism has generated, and continues to generate, the highest material standard of living for large masses of people in human history.

Proposition #12: In all advanced industrial societies education has become the single most important vehicle of upward mobility.

Proposition #16: Capitalism is a necessary but not sufficient condition of democracy.

Proposition #22: At least in Western societies, if not elsewhere as well, capitalism is the necessary but not sufficient condition of the continuing reality of individual autonomy.

Proposition #28: Capitalist development in Third World societies leading to rapid and labor-intensive economic growth is more likely to equalize income distribution than strategies of deliberate policies of income distribution.

Proposition #30: East Asia confirms the superior capacity of industrial capitalism in raising the material standard of living of large masses of people.

Proposition #40: The movements toward democracy and individuation in East Asia have been greatly strengthened by the adherence of these societies to an international capitalist system centered in the West.

Proposition #48: There can be no effective market economy without private ownership of the means of production.

The following seven commonly held values (pp. 218-221) are held by more people around the world than any others (regardless of what their political leaders may like or say or put forth in the contest over ideas and values that often keep their people from benefiting from these values). These seven values are far better fostered and far more greatly delivered by democratic capitalism than by socialism or "third way" approaches, and relate directly, in my mind, to the inner-city of Minneapolis:

  1. The material well-being of people, especially of the poor
  2. Equality (equity, equalities, reducing inequalities)
  3. Political liberties and democracy (freedom)
  4. Protection of human rights (civil, political, economic, cultural, religious), i.e., "protection of individuals and groups against the most common acts of tyranny (massive terror, arbitrary executions, torture, mass deportations, the forced separation of families," as well as "protection against economic misfortune" (the purpose of welfare)
  5. Individual autonomy
  6. Preservation of tradition
  7. Community

I list the above for those still waffling between the left and right extremes and their agendas. We cannot understand the importance of education, housing, and jobs, without first keeping clear, that the empirical evidence shows that more people have been brought out of poverty by capitalism, and that "democratic regimes have the best record on the protection of human rights in all the categories employed by human rights theorists."

I list these for two simple reasons: first, less than 8% of small businesses in America are Black, and yet most jobs are created in small businesses. Secondly, minorities will not succeed in business unless they have the education to do so.

This has been The Minneapolis Story Through My Eyes . What will be The Minneapolis story over the next decade? What dreams will be envisioned? How will visions be sustained?

We have come a long way from the day when we had to ride in the back of the bus. We have come a long way since the time we weren't even allowed on the bus. Now we have come to the time where it is important that we also drive the bus.

We have just finished the 20 th century, a century of many dreams, ranging from capitalism to socialism, from far Right to far Left, from Hitler and Franco and Mussolini to Lenin and Stalin and Mao. Their dreams, as we have seen, were very costly. Their visions were death traps. From the perspective of these men, it is wonderful for us that the 20 th century is over. But what will we envision for the 21 st ? What will we dream for the next decade? How might what I have written about the Minneapolis story help with future visions, future dreams?

I won't lose sight of "freedom's unfinished business," of the prize of equality's freedom. Here are the words of Frederick Douglass, a free Negro, active prohibitionist, who also never took his eye off the prize. Hear him in 1852, prior to the Civil War:

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God.

I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. "The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, .... the multitude walked on in mental darkness. .... Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. .... The fiat of the Almighty, "Let there be Light," has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light.

Frederic Douglas
" What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" speech
July 5, 1852, Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society
Rochester Hall, Rochester, N.Y.
Reminding his audience of liberty's unfinished business

This legacy question is not as easy as it sounds. We all want to be remembered for our positive things, not our negative. A guiding light of mine is that you only pass this way once. And probably one of the greatest disservices that we can do to our legacies, to our souls, is to have passed this way and done nothing. And so, I'd like to be thought of as having done a number of things that helped others and maybe in some small way led to positive change. That basically is it. But what I seek is more than the final story of Ron Edwards. The real legacy that I want to keep alive is the legacy the struggle to keep the eye on the equality's prize of freedom. It is my hope, my intent, that this will be the legacy which all of us can lift up for the young Black men of our city.

I have spent 40 years as a community advocate in pursuit of fairness in the pursuit of justice. The pursuit of inclusion is not an easy road; it is not a part of Dorothy's yellow brick road, you know. You'd like to think that you're going to the Land of the Wizard of Oz, but for Black folk the Wizard meant something different. The

Wizard represents the Ku Klux Klan, if you will. And so, not all roads are paved with gold, but in our quest to move down those roads, we need successes to go along with the inevitable reversals. And because of who we are and what we are and where we are, we do not necessarily have the lives we want. But we can have the soul and attitude we want. And those are worth all the potential material comforts. I have the soul and the attitude I want.

Now don't get me wrong when I say what I'm about to say. I am a humble man. I live humbly. I speak humbly. But I don't rest on false humility either. Let me put it to you this way, as a friend told it to me. He said that I have a significant opportunity that puts me in the top one percentile of those who get an opportunity to tell their story and help others by doing so.

And I must be doing something right, as both White and Black organizations have tried to wipe me out, have fought me and tried to diminish me as a man and as a force for equal access and equal opportunity in the community, as an advocate of justice and fairness. At the same time, those who have opposed me as well as those in the media that cover these battles, have sought my comments, because whether they agree or disagree with me, they know I will give them the straight scoop (hence the many times I've been quoted in the newspaper (Interlude 1).

Now, dear reader, it is important to me that you understand that every morning when I wake up, I'm at peace with myself, with my being. Now that does not mean I don't have stressful days, for I do, especially when my day has been filled with civil and human rights battles, as I speak out in one forum or another. Nonetheless, at the end of the day and at the beginning of the morning, I am at peace with myself, knowing I did what it was that I needed to do not only for the cause of peace but to be at peace with myself, that I saw issues that needed to be addressed and that I attempted to make a difference. That is what is important.

I leave it to others to judge how well we have spoken on behalf of fairness and justice for everyone. Although at one time they did, it is certainly clear that for a while now the NAACP and Urban League don't as well as they used to (Chapter 14). But I don't represent them. I represent the poor, especially poor Black young men, and Black police officers, and any and all who are denied equal access and equal opportunity, a denial that today comes as much from so-called Black leaders as from White leaders. Thus I also feel for poor Whites in Appalachia, where in some counties only 50% of people 25 and over have a High School diploma, where unemployment in some counties is 12% higher than in others, and where the per capita income of some counties is 30% below the U.S. poverty rate of $16,036, and where in most counties the number of children living in poverty is 40% over the national average. So what I write applies to them too. But I don't live in Appalachia. They are welcome to my words. I inviteeveryone to write their story. But I live in Minneapolis, so I have addressed what is going on in Minneapolis.

What particularly pains me is the fact that many Black church leaders are accepting money from the government to co-opt real activity that might get real results for the poor. This is not Christian behavior. This is important to understand because not all religions have such an emphasis on caring for the poor as Christianity does. And yet despite the widespread poverty in the world, Christians, who are to have a special concern for the poor, that "preferential option for the poor," not only give less and less in their offering plates, they also neglect the poor through policies geared to achieve support for the wealthy. They are like the religious leaders in the parable of the Good Samaritan who "passed on the other side."

Caring for others is a main theme in the Bible, and yet any "preferential option for the poor" means doing more than preaching on hunger on World Hunger Sunday. But how many in the pews, White or Black, would be happy if their preachers talked this up from their pulpits? All that I ask for is justice for the poor. And justice means equal opportunity and equal access to education, housing, and jobs. This is what is denied the poor by keeping them under educated or not educated at all, paying "minimum" wages that are actually "below minimum," as earning the "minimum" for a full time job won't support a family, despite all the cries for family values from politicians. Minimum wage for a full time job is still not a living wage. The first and primary family value is the living wage. The bottom line is that any preacher or civil servant who doesn't advocate for those unable to advocate for themselves, and this includes teachers in the schools, are "passing on the other side" and are either actively participating in keeping the poor in their place or acquiescing to it by standing by silently and not saying anything about it. Too many, seemingly, are happy getting theirs (job security and retirement) and are not upset if others are denied an opportunity to get theirs even when they are working full time.

I am doing my best to speak on behalf of those without a voice. Now, some would argue, "man you've been forced out of the Urban League and they forced you off the radio station, ha, ha, ha," and the NAACP has just recently tried to silence you, you know, and so you have been capped." Maybe so, but I'm an intelligent enough person; I'm an insightful enough person to know what the true indicators are. These things happened as a part of the battle. The battle keeps me going. It provides the fire, if you will, that continues to burn within my soul that makes me know that I'm right, that I am contributing to the meaning in people's lives, and not adding to their pain. And so, that's the thing that's kept me going, and in many respects that's the thing that has provided me with the sense of youth and rejuvenation; that I can still make a difference with my life for those I advocate for in the community.

I want to maintain a good accounting or stewardship, if you will, of the gifts God has given me. God gave me a gift of recall, tremendous recall. I've always said this to myself, and maybe to a few others, that it must be in the genes of my body and soul, so that if we were to go back 500 to 1000 years to wherever it was in Africa that my ancestors came from, it would be my ancestor who was the village storyteller. And not just my village perhaps, but maybe also a wider area encompassing other villages as well, because I know that when you have a gift, God expects you to use it. And that is why I know that the Minneapolis story applies to inner cities across America as well.

We live in a wonderful, awesome universe. There is more to it than just the green grass, blue water, and the air that swirls above us. So I also think that whether physically or spiritually, it is important to understand that we are not here by ourselves in the universe. Think of the awesomeness of the explosion of a Nova, if you will, that may take the equivalent of 3-4000 years in our sense of time, and in some cases, millions of years to reach us. We have to understand how insignificant, in some respects we are as "species" and yet something very significant in terms of Creation and Life. So, I think about those kinds of things and that's a part of strengthening my belief in what we are as human beings, that we were put here to help each other.

You see it bothers me to see the mean-spirited conduct and attitudes that I witness in person, read about in the paper, or see on the news. How can you kill a child? If you can kill a child, and empathize with that, you can kill anyone. And we have had several instances over the past year of mothers killing their children. Now I know there are sick minds and sick people. We all have the little dark closets, you know. But how do you take a 4 year-old or 6 year-old child and how do you assault them and mutilate them, burn them, or drown them? How do you beat a child; how do you smother a 15 or 16-month old baby? How do you deny life? How do you take a newborn and toss it in a dumpster? How the hell do you do that? And even worse, how can you then write, as several women columnists have, that they "understand" the urge to kill their children? In the Middle East, we have a people willing to send their children in to kill themselves in order to kill other children. Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir once said: "there will be no peace until they love their children more than they hate us." So, if we can say we understand how mothers can kill their own children, then we have to step back and see what else is at work that we as a society would step back and allow kids to be clubbed to academic death in schools, as baby seals, and condemned to a life of failure by being denied education and the jobs that come once they are educated. How can people say they "understand" and walk away and let the status quo kill the hope and promise of yet another Black generation?

So as you read about the Minneapolis story, use it as a base to discuss our cherished topics, topics such as freedom and liberty and equality. Ask yourself, are things in Minneapolis being done in the open or are they being done by guile and deception, as institutions are taken over silently? Which is your value? Openness or deception? How you answer will greatly influence how you interpret what I write for you in this book. Think of it this way. We are not talking about rocket science. We are talking about how to treat others. That which is right, we feel free to talk about clearly and in the open. But that which is not right, what is not OK, we tend not to discuss; instead, we tend to act in private, where many are not allowed to listen or participate. We need to talk about education, housing, jobs, and participating in the social, political and economic mainstream in the open as well.

Another way I "test" myself is to ask myself these four questions:

  1. Am I dealing with virtuous people? I am if they view freedom as responsibility and restraint and not as license and selfishness.
  2. Do they teach character the time-tested way of modeling it and demonstrating it in their actions and behaviors with others, as they walk the talk, or do they just talk the walk?

  3. What values do they espouse and practice? Are they values related to power and money only or do they also include the virtues of morality (and are they even willing to discuss virtues and values and morality)?
  4. What do I see when I watch people? a desire for control or a desire to help, a passion for self or compassion for others, more about money, perks, sex, and abuse and mistreatment of others or more about self-control and power control so that people in the community do well too?

And for all of these, I look to see what level of support they give to what I consider the common ground for everyone, the YESes and NOs outlined in Chapter 5 (and repeated in Chapter 17).

How do we get there?

Do we follow the modern response of tolerance that comes with pluralism or the intolerance that comes from one or more of the singular fundamentalisms, be it political or religious? Pluralism, the rule of the West, is under attack from the East, especially from Islam, because they have no concept of pluralism; thus, they can't think in terms of tolerance or more than one road to the truth of the transcendent, believing steadfastly that their way is the only way. In their mindset, they are willing to self-destruct as martyrs, en masse, if need be, in the attempt to eliminate us. They not only want to push Israel into the sea; they want to push us there as well. They can do no other. Indeed, their doctrine of Taqlid, that no truth exists beyond that of revealed in the Koran, means that they either have to continue until they self destruct or until they are saved the way the Roman Catholic church was saved, with a Reformation (which then impacted back upon the Roman Catholic Church with the counter-reformation, leading, in another unintended consequence, to most of the changes Martin Luther championed).

It is the reverse in Minneapolis: the Taqlid is about the White Way, as it is the inner city Blacks, especially the young Black men, who are singled out for martyrdom by White policies and practices that deny them the access and opportunity to move up and support themselves and their families and communities. This is the fundamentalism of White racism.

Yet I still have hope. For what could me more awesome than coming into contact with other ways. And so, by seeing the other ways, we are confronted with the greatest and worst part of being modern: choice. Indeed, the word comes from the Greek verb hairein, from which we get our word heresy. Those who claim the choices of others are heresy make a claim of truth. So, whose truth? We can choose to follow the radical, murderous, intolerant and exclusive versions of our favorite historically specific religion/ideology/political/ truth system, or we can chose to follow the historically non-specific path of tolerance and inclusion, using a calculus of meaning and a calculus of pain to resolve the contests between the different world views before us from which we can choose. Capitalism and democracy are a choice for the historically non-specific. Others are a choice of the historically specific. And so, dear reader, what have you chosen? And if you haven't chosen, what will you choose?

We act in bad faith when we say we were born into hatred or a sense of superiority over others. We learned it. And thus at some point we have to face the reality that we know the difference and that where we stand is based on our choice. By what standard do we justify our choices if they have resulted in continued impoverishment of the poor and continued poor education for Blacks and other minorities? How do we justify our choices in light of these outcomes? How do we stand on the debate between individuals being sovereign or a people being sovereign, a question phrased this way in the New York Times on August 4, 2002, by Al Gore:

There has always been a debate over the destiny of this nation between those who believed they were entitled to govern because of their station in life, and those who believed that the people were sovereign. That distinction remains as strong as ever today.

These are good words. We should all adhere to them. And thus each November (and in the primaries preceding them) we are all faced with a choice when we vote for candidates for public office. My choice is to vote for those who would devolve political power to the community so it can better achieve the YESes and turn back the NOs as the instruments of federal and state policy that, continuing from the above speech by Al Gore, are "used for the benefit of the many, rather than the few."

I will continue to advocate for my community. And I will continue to document the activities of Whites and Blacks as if I were a zoologist exploring the city streets and the halls of government agencies, observing the hops and swings and grunts of those I observe, as I attempt to interpret their sometimes hilarious enjoyment and sometimes angry reactions to exploring each other's ways. My preference is the twitches and sighs and laughter and tears of inner city people, as we all work together to achieve equal access and equal opportunity with fairness and justice for all. I will post these on my web site, .

Public policy must foster both the creation of business opportunities as well as the creation of jobs and social change to improve the quality of life for all, and it must foster an end to divisiveness of all kinds, in order to allow prosperity and a sense of solidarity for and among its citizens, enabling political democracy and individual autonomy to co-exist positively and happily together, all done with humility and wisdom and openness to changing policies if an evaluation of their consequences turns out to be negative. This can probably best be done by instituting a dialogue among all the public and private sector groups with a stake in what happens, following standard models of conflict resolution when needed.

I, Ron Edwards, reject the saddle and the spur. I will ride no one. And no one will ride me.

I, Ron Edwards, pledge to continue to support Natalie Johnson-Lee, and join with her in fighting for fair access and fair opportunities for all. Won't you join me? What choices, dear reader, will you make?

I invite all citizens and institutions of Minneapolis, public and private, itself, to take the steps needed to create a public discussion about the future. I believe that everyone in the city is crying out for just such a family meeting. And, as all such meetings need mediators and referees and umpires, I suggest that we call upon the Federal Community Relations department. Although this department is a part of the Justice Department, it is separate from it in that the Supreme Court has ruled it is not to share its information with the DOJ because of the privileged nature of the covenant between those working for Community Relations and the cities into which they bring their mediation expertise. Part of this "conversation" should involve developing "Sullivan Principles" for Minneapolis (in Chapter 14).

The Stakes are for All of Us, which is Why Hope Still Beats Eternal

As I draft this conclusion in the shadow of the anniversary of September 11, 2001 Terrorist attack on the United States, I am filled by optimism because Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, parts of which I quoted earlier, was used in New York City and around the country to commemorate that day that will live in infamy as only a few other dates in our history will. But when we look at Lincoln's words again, especially as it relates to the future of America and the future of Minneapolis, lets us recall the five times Lincoln used the word "dedicate" and to what he said we should be dedicating ourselves:

And so to, with the constantly evolving process of how we work together to create our City of Minneapolis, I call on all people to dedicate themselves to these same ideals and goals. We too have unfinished work in Minneapolis: to bring to fruition the YESes and to eliminate the NOs (Chapters 5, 17).

That is the great task before us, or how else will we secure freedom and equality for all? Teddy Roosevelt said, "Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords." I will continue to be aggressive, in writing, on my TV show "Black Focus," on my web page, and in any other way I can as I renew my dedication to my goal of doing all that I can to get all of us engaged in that "sport," the fight for the right, the right of all to equal access and equal opportunity, and especially for the Blacks of the inner city.

May this book about Minneapolis be like a beacon on a hill, illuminating our way to finish our unfinished work, to complete the great task of providing a place for everyone at the Minneapolis table. May it offer a rhythm for the drum beat of freedom. We can learn from it and make better choices along our shared path to the future, or we can turn it off and go where the darkness allows us to stumble around. I urge you to use the Minneapolis Story as a light for yourself and for your community.

The Stakes for All of Us are the Stakes of Freedom

The companion book to the PBS TV series Eyes on the Prize ends like this:

The decade spanning the Brown decision of 1954 and the Voting Rights act of 1965 saw more social change, more court decisions, and more legislation in the name of civil rights than any decade in our nation's history. Those changes were forced by millions of Americans who, with a sense of service and justice, kept their eyes on the prize of freedom.

I know one thing we did right was the day we started to fight. Keep your eyes o the prize, hold on, hold on.

We too must hold on and not take our eyes off the prize of freedom. We need another decade of great progress in race relations. We need to stand up for the kind of social change needed to enable us to achieve the prize of freedom for everyone. As I began this Postscript, doing so in the sense of the postscript Viktor Frankl wrote in his book, I again turn to how he ended his postscript, which provides the perfect recipe for ending mine:

So, let us be alert--alert in a twofold sense:

  1. Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of.
  2. Since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.

And so, the Minneapolis story calls us to be alert in a twofold sense as well:

  1. Since slavery, Jim Crow, Tulsa, Rosewood, Duluth, Hollman and August 2002 in Minneapolis, and the racism, violence, and White terrorism described in Interludes 2, 6, 9-15, we know what man is capable of.
  2. Since the Civil War, Dred Scott, Martin Luther King, Jr., the land-takings and wealth-takings from Blacks, the attempts to bring Jim Crow back and the current problems in the inner cities in terms of education, housing, jobs, and equal access/opportunity, the Watts Riots of 1965, the urban riots of 1967, and the latest unrest in Minneapolis in 2002, we know what is at stake.

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his book, hear his voice, read his solution papers, and read his between columns “web log” at

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