The Minneapolis Story Home Page

The Experience of Ron Edwards

A Renaissance Black Man in a White Man's World

A Beacon for Freedom in the City

Solution Papers

Home | All Solution Papers » | All Columns » | All Blogs »

Solution Paper #44, posted May 21, 2011, Guidelines for Including Justice in Planning Meetings to Calculate a Better Future for Minneapolis in terms of education, jobs, housing and public safety, by engaging in a " contestation" between competing public policy idea sets.
Originally published in November 2002 in The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes, by Ron Edwards as told to Peter Jessen, pp. 297-299, 300, 315-317, 320-322.


May 23, 2011 Introduction.

Much as been made by the attempt of various groups in Minneapolis, sometimes separately, sometimes together (churches/ecumenical; foundations/non-profits; city agencies/departments) regarding Planning for the communities of color (in both geographic and human cluster terms), with the elites of Blacks and Whites meeting to make decisions for the non-elite Whites and Blacks. The various Solution Papesr, especially this along with #43, “Justice and Fairness:  The Question of Equal Access and Equal Opportunity,” serve as guidelines for any Planning meetings or process, for any and all discussing or developing public policy, especially in the areas of education, jobs, housing, the environment, and public safety, with the urging here to use these solution papers as guidelines for developing the ethics for governing in order to get the best results for the people..

These are guidelines also for what we call “tracking the gaps" in "The Big 7" of Minneapolis: (1) education, (2) jobs; (3) housing; (4) public safety (including tracking the war on young Black men);  (5) safe environment; (6) governing; and (7) moral/ethical stances regarding access and opportunity, liberty and justice for all.  They relate to what we call the The Blocks to Construct a Minneapolis Table for All to Sit At Together.

The Minneapolis Story Through My Eyes was published in 2002. The work since then has led to our second book, in 2008, A Seat for Everyone:  The Freedom Guide that Explores a Vision for America.  These books and the columns and papers on this web site track the status of the successes and failures of the post 60s Civil Rights Movement and the failures of Black organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League, organizations that have taken their eyes off the prize.  Hence our efforts to provide solutions, including our ten suggestions of 2007. 38-39, 97

Key concepts are “historically specific conservatives” and “historically non-specific conservatives” (terms of Peter Berger, discussed in The Minneapolis Story on pp. 297-299, "contestation" of the ideas of these two sets (pp. 38-39, 97, of A Seat for Everyone.

We find all discussions of what "ought/should/must/ be discussed somewhere on spectrum of these two ideas sets, the “historically specific conservatives” (those on the political and religious right and on the political and religious left, who have a Goldern Age from the past that never existed that they wish to resurrect or a putative but impossible future utopia they want to create, and then freeze it in place:  conserve it, vs. “historically non-specific conservatives” (those who recognize there will always be unintended consequences with planned change, and therefore urge “making haste slowly”.  Some say more harm has been done to people and to the environment by the policies of those who made haste creating change to achieve their good intentions who nonetheless do not evaluate consequences as their plans unfold (20th century ideologies and their wars, famines, environmental degradation, and accompanying impoverishment and enslaving of 100s of millions who were denied the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, petition, religion, etc.) bcause they were creating "the new Germanic/Russian/Chinese man. See also Solutios Paper #42: PLANNING For The Positive Future Possibilities Of Minnesota, for Minneapolis in General, and the African American Community in Particular.

Too many believe that the "end" they promote is "The End." That it will stay that wsy forever ("thousand year reign" and all of that). A recent book called it "The End of History" (a take onHegel who said with his book the world had the last word on philosoph. Marx believed that communism was the end of change, that once ushered in the world would stay that way. But Newton's 2nd law (for every action there is a reaction) is till solidly in place. Always. Forever. And it is the second law that bedevils the "historically specific conservatives." Max Weber use this phrase regarding how the dialectic continued, how Newton's 2nd law continues: "reciprocal causation of reality." As Peter has so eloquently stated, "reality is of course...until further notce."

It is the contestation betwen these perspectives that will determine the next set of reality back and forths.


EXCERPTS FROM p. 297-299 of Interlude 16

Calculating A Better Future For All

From “The Valley of the Fallen” To The “Mountain of the Risen:”
A Parable of Calculating Actions and Laws
For Their Attendant Pain and Meaning,
To Better Envision A World Integrating All People
into the Mainstream of Equal Access and Equal Opportunity

I believe our new, smaller government must work in an old-fashioned American way, together with all of our citizens through state and local governments, in the workplace, in religious, charitable and civic associations. Our goal must be to enable all our people to make the most of their own lives -- with stronger families, more educational opportunity, economic security , safer streets, a cleaner environment in a safer world.

President Bill Clinton, State of the Union Message, 1996

The era of big government is over. But we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves. We must go forward as one America, one nation working together to meet the challenges together. Self-reliance and teamwork are not opposing virtues; we must have both.

From Pyramids of Sacrifice:  Political Ethics and Social Change (Basic Books, NY, NY, 1974), Peter L. Berger:

Thesis #11:  We must seek solutions to our problems that accept neither hunger nor terror.
Thesis #15:  Those who are the objects of policy should have the
opportunity to participate not only in specific decisions but in the definitions of the situation on which these decisions are based. 
Thesis #22:  A key area for such institutional innovation will be in the
creation of intermediate structures—intermediate, that is, between the modern state and the undifferentiated mass of uprooted individuals typical of modern societies.  This policy imperative cuts across the capitalist/socialist dichotomy. 

Peter Berger ends his 1972 book Pyramids of Sacrifice:  Political Ethics and Social Change with the story of the Spanish Civil War.  It was filled with moral ambiguity and unspeakable brutality on both sides, with the Nationalists, the Falange, attempting to “hold at bay the forces of modernity, to turn Spain back to the virtues of an earlier age,” as they fought against the Republican ideals of modern democracy and revolutionary salvation.  Both were “historically specific conservatives.”
Spain’s monument to this conflict, near the Valley of the Fallen, was dug out of a mountain, where thousands from both sides are buried, with the inscription:  “to die for God and Spain.”  Berger’s chilling statement is:  And the Spain that is now emerging has nothing to do with what either side fought and died for.  This can be said also about the Civil Rights movement as it applies to Blacks in the inner city. 

Few historical actions lead to intended consequences, whereas many lead to unintended consequences.  So good intentions are not enough.  We need a way to evaluate both our policies and our deeds.  I have suggested one approach with my YESes and NOs of Chapters 5 that are repeated in Chapter 17.

Since then, Berger has developed another way of helping us understand social dynamics by casting aside the model of Left and Right, Liberal and ConservativeHe notes how we are all conservative, in that once we get our way, we want to keep it that way.  In other words, the basic difference between political Left and Right is in what they want to conserve.  For those on the political far Left, the ideal is an imagined utopian future that they want to put in place, often through revolutionary means, and once established, conserve it by freezing it in place, and accept no more change.  The model usually includes some component of socialism.  This, in my view, is the essence of the 20th-century’s socialist totalitarian societies.  For those on the political Right, the ideal is an imagined golden age that they wish to resurrect from the past, often through armed means, and once established, conserve it and freeze it in place, and accept no more change.  Both are “historically specific conservatives.”  An alternative is what Berger calls “historically nonspecific conservatives,” those who recognize that no matter what one tries to freeze in place, there will still be change, both unpredicted and unintended, and therefore one need “make haste slowly.”  He discusses this in his 1991 essay “Capitalism and the Disorders of Modernity,” in the journal First Things.  One way to tell the difference is to ask if anyone is being asked to be saddled or assumed to be naturally saddled, and are others saying they were born to ride them? 

If we agree that no solution should be accepted that accepts hunger or terror, and that those who must live under policies should have the opportunity to participate in the policy decisions, especially in intermediate institutions of community, neighborhoods, churches, and voluntary organizations, then we must include an acceptance of the phrase “preferential option for the poor,” especially in terms of education, jobs, and housing.  
To integrate everyone into the social and political mainstream means they have to have equal access and opportunity in the economic mainstream.  Many theories have been proposed for how to do so.  Only one system has proven to bring more people out of poverty than any other:  capitalism, a market economy, and only one system has proven to offer more freedom and liberty than any other:  democracy, with its emphasis on equal law and private property.  Some might call it democratic capitalism (because dictatorships also use capitalism).  In other words, you can have capitalism without democracy, but you cannot have democracy without capitalism.  Many think the Scandinavian countries are socialist.  They are not.  Their socialist-style welfare programs have been supported by economies that are capitalist.

Throughout, I have held that “equal opportunity” does not mean “equal results.  That is foolish.  Many think Lyndon Johnson’s worst deed was the Vietnam War.  Certainly I was no fan of the war.  It may not have been necessary.  It surely wasn’t executed right. But as Gorbachev later said it helped bankrupt the Soviet Union, we may have to begrudgingly admit it helped end the Cold War.  And his Great Society was well intended (we were all in favor of ending poverty even as we disagreed on the means to do so).  His worst deed was how he defined the goal of the Great Society.  The reason the Republicans were so horrified by the Great Society is because they correctly interpreted his Left, Socialist goal as being unintentionally totalitarian.  The goal, as LBJ stated it, was:

not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and as a result. 

To achieve “equality of result” in terms of equal access and equal opportunity is one thing.  To expect, as many on the Left pushed for, equal results and the redistribution of property and wealth, would require absolute state coercion at every level, including the redistribution of private property, and telling everyone what they could become in society, as if they were potted plants to place in a socially engineered garden, which is the opposite of what most of us mean by freedom and liberty.

Here is where the Democrats really went wrong, set an impossible goal, and caused many needless debates, not to mention programs doomed before they started.  It is a beautiful, poetic statement albeit a wrong and deadly one.  I still wonder today if Johnson really understood it or if it was just another of the many speeches he saw for the first time when he read it.  We all know that human beings are, by nature, unequal, whether we are playing in the Super Bowl or on Jeopardy.  What I have been talking about is that Blacks haven’t been allowed to participate in the game. 

Equality of result is decidedly not what I mean.  And I don’t think LBJ did either.  But many programs since then have been run as if they can have equal results.  To me, equal results can only be understood in terms of equal access and equal opportunity in education, jobs, affordable housing, and the option to participate in the social, political and economic opportunities of our society.

EXCERPTS from p.300 of Chapter 17: The Positive Future Possibilties for Minnenapolis

It is time that all Blacks be included at the table.  One of the great tools offered citizens by the United States is the mechanism of asset management that most take for granted.  It allows assets to become liquid and turned into something else, such as investment money from the mortgage on a home or building or cash for your kid’s education.  But to have investment income one needs a living wage with some discretionary money left over to invest.  To make asset management work means having not only laws that enforce private property rights but also laws that prevent its theft, whether stolen by the private sector or public sector.  Much inequality is not due to capitalism, but due to many being forced out of it, whether forcibly (see Interlude 8) or through benign neglect (Chapters 7-9).  Education is the key for all in our modern society.  When we offer public education to the poor and inner city that does not teach the key tools of reading and writing, or when housing is kept out of reach by depressing wages below livable levels that don’t allow making mortgage payments combined with practices that deny mortgages to minorities, then we have said you are not welcome at the table.

Ancient King Solomon asked for wisdom to discern what to do.  The facts of this book can give us the wisdom to know what can probably work and in all probability what will not work.  In his Pyramids of Sacrifice, Peter Berger gives us a “recipe for discerning whether what we are doing is wise or not, by giving us a calculus to use, one of meaning and one of pain.  I have attempted to use this recipe in our accepted YESes and common NOs of Chapter 5.  This book has addressed the “calculus of pain” of racism and Jim Crowism in terms of the immense human costs borne by those who did not request or conceive the projects but were forced to live under them.  Public policy needs modestyPublic policy needs wisdom.  Imaginations are still needed.  But so too is the wisdom with which to use them and wisdom with which to judge the consequences of those policies.  Hence the YESSES and NOs, the ultimate contest of ideas, a “contestation” between our ideals and an examination of them in both economical and ideological terms.  The Senator who tried to have family live a week on the minimum wage was a good start.  Every legislator, Federal and State and City, should attempt to live on the minimum wage for at least a week (although a month would be more of a learning experience).  Then we could really get serious in talking about positive future possibilities.

from Conclusion, pp. 315-317

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 20th 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 20th century is over.  But what will we envision for the 21st?  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, andof 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 USSla the Fourth of July?” speech
              5 July 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 of 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.

Excerpts from pp.320-322 of Conclusion: Not Losing Sight of the Prize of Equality’s Freedom

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 that 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 so that, continuing from the above speech by Al Gore, [federal and state and city policy] are “used for the benefit of the many, rather than the few.”

Posted May 23, 2011, 11:57 p.m.

To order The Minneapolis Story, through my eyes, and/or its follow-up, A Seat For Everyone, click here.

Ron Edwards hosts "Black Focus" on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!" Saturdays at 5 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at Hear his readings and read his columns, his solution papers and his "Tracking the Gaps" web log. Formerly head of key civil rights organizations, including the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his "watchdog" role for Minneapolis, and his work to contribute to the planning to help mold a consensus for the future of Black and White Americans together of Minneapolis.

Permission is granted to reproduce The Minneapolis Story columns, blog entires and solution papers. Please cite the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and for the columns. Please

Home | All Solution Papers » | All Columns » | All Blogs »