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UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS

1331 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE , NW, WASHINGTON, DC 20425 www.usccr.gov

Mayor Jacob Frey


350 South 5th Street, Room 331
Minneapolis, MN 55415

June 11, 2019

Dear Mayor Frey:


I write as one member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and not on behalf of the
Commission as a whole.
When planning workplace functions, it’s usually a good idea to ask, “Could this be mistaken for
an episode of ‘The Office?’” Unfortunately, someone in Minneapolis city government forgot to
ask this basic question.
News reports indicate that Minneapolis planned a series of events called “Sacred Conversations”
to commemorate the arrival of the first African slaves in Jamestown in 1619.1 Although the
events have been cancelled for now, media reports indicate they will be rescheduled.2
Respectfully, this would be a very bad idea.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the June 27th session was to have the theme of
“recovering our narratives of oppression and liberation”.3 During the session, “black bodied”
employees were to be separated from “white bodied” employees, ostensibly because thye are the
two groups who were historically affected by slavery. Does everyone automatically get either a
scarlet letter or a gold star just because their skin is roughly the same shade as slave owners or
slaves who lived somewhere other than Minneapolis 160 years ago? What if a black person
who’s a recent immigrant is descended from slave traders in Africa? Do we send him to the
“oppressor” lecture with the “white-bodied” folks, or the “victim” lecture with the “black-
bodied” folks? And what about Asian and Hispanic employees? Where do they fit into the
Oppression Olympics?
In addition to being galactically stupid, dividing employees by race and haranguing members of
one race is presumptively illegal (Really. Not kidding. I looked it up. Shocked the heck outta me
too.). Title VII makes it illegal “to discriminate against any individual with respect to his
compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race,
color, . . or to limit, segregate or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way

1
John Hinderaker, “Segregation Comes to Minnesota,” Powerline, June 3, 2019,
https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2019/06/segregation-comes-to-minnesota.php.
2
Rochelle Olson, “Minneapolis officials canceled segregated meetings for city staffers marking slavery
anniversary,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, June 5, 2019, http://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-officials-canceled-
segregated-meetings-for-city-staffers-marking-slavery-anniversary/510826012/.
3
Id.
UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS

1331 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE , NW, WASHINGTON, DC 20425 www.usccr.gov

which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise
adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color”.4 This is
exactly what the City of Minneapolis proposes to do, plumbing depths of cluelessness heretofore
reached only by Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute.
I’m glad that “Sacred Conversations” has been postponed, but I urge you to cancel the event
entirely.
And please, don’t replace it with “Diversity Day.”

Sincerely,

Peter Kirsanow
Commissioner

4
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2.