By Kindra Ramaker
Fillmore County Journal Readers – as both a member of the Fillmore County discussion group addressing “Conversations on Race in Fillmore County” as well as being informed by my work on the Olmsted County Human Rights Commission – I would like to address an opinion piece published in the Fillmore County Journal written by Jeff Erding, a long term citizen of Wykoff Minn., a carpenter, and my Catholic Catechism teacher. Mr. Erding jumps in with both feet into issues of human rights and public policy while doing very little to establish any sort of fundamental knowledge of either, despite how authoritatively he feels empowered to speak on both. I’d like to start by addressing his claim that the MDHR is “MDHR is using bullying tactics to impose a radical ideology.” Since my role as an Olmsted County Human Rights commissioner allows me to be very familiar with the mission of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights – I can only assume that this radical ideology he refers to is the idea that every child has an equal right to education – since this IS the ideology that each person who works in this department is committed to serving. He references race based discipline – which he does not define nor cite actual policies to establish this as something that is real. If Mr. Erding were actually acting from a sincere desire to understand and solve problems, he may have actually approached his research from a place of curiosity and intent to understand. The article shows that he did not approach his piece with curiosity or a desire to understand the issue more deeply because nowhere does he indicate any sort of understanding of the policies that have been implemented since the 2015 OCR report in the Rochester Public Schools example and the fact that there are no “race based discipline policies.” Mr. Erding cites a 1997 decision by the US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals which actually has no application to the remedies that have been put in place by schools in our area to address the very real and data driven problems identified in Rochester Public Schools. Mr. Erding also chooses to gas-light the issue by quoting teachers from a teachers union out of context – implying that their position is that the abuse that they suffer at the hands of students is in fact FROM the minority students who are experiencing disproportionate disciplinary action. He does not use either direct quotes or data to support his very strongly positioned assertion. Speaking from a very personal place, as a student in Mr. Erding’s Catholic Catechism classes, I am both flabbergasted and deeply heartbroken at the divergence from the teaching of Jesus that Mr. Erding exhibits in his very racist attitudes towards the children of our communities. What breaks my heart most profoundly – is that one can have a family member who will undoubtedly be the victim of racism at some point in their life, and have none of the compassion that Christians are called to have to be brave enough to be a part of the solution rather than one of the oppressors. I speak from a place of a deep desire to root out racism in rural Minnesota when I call upon those who may have influence with Mr. Erding to call him back to the place of his Christian roots and reexamine his intentions, and a reminder that Human Rights is not a partisan issue. I write this response expressing my personal opinions and not in formal response from the Olmsted County Human Rights Commission.