At 9:35 a.m. on a sunny Minneapolis morning, Bao Phi is on his way to drop his daughter off at daycare. Knowing that they are running late, Bao rolls through a stop sign without waiting the designated 3 seconds, and is stopped by a police officer who approaches the car with his hand already on his pistol. Bao describes the horror of seeing a police officer approach him, ready to fire for a minor offense: “I wonder what the officers thought I could have been doing [..] with my four-year old daughter in the booster seat, that would warrant them needing their guns.”

This story, like so many others, tells a tale of two Minnesota-s.  There is the idyllic Minnesota of our collective imagination, a state ripe with natural resources, economic opportunity and neighborly kindness that extends to every one of us. However, there is a darker version of Minnesota that many of us do not see.  A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesotaa collection of essays edited by Sun Yung Shin, tells the story of a darker Minnesota –  a Minnesota that fails to adequately protect and care for its residents of color, and looks the other way as systemic racism continues to destabilize and destroy their lives. Through their passionate, gritty and impactful story-telling, local artists of color are able to bring light to this side so that it may be seen by all.

This collection of 16 essays conveys the lived experiences of Minnesotans of color in bite-sized pieces, allowing readers an insight into the heaviness of each author’s experience in a poignant and uncompromising way.  Alexis Pate, author and businessman, writes: “[Readers] will not be able to read this book without changing.  Minnesota will never be the same.” Featured authors include poets, independent film makers, activists, writers and elected officials, providing a creative platform to elevate their voices to a wider, white audience. Like Bao Phi, they have a truth to tell: Minnesota is our home, but we are never safe here.

Some of these authors are immigrants and refugees, and some are citizens. They are African-American, Latino, Native American or Asian. Many have advanced degrees and published works, while others did not finish a formal education. No matter their differences, their essays converge into one powerful anthology that will leave readers laughing, tearful, angry and, at times, ashamed at ever having participated in the oppression of their fellow Minnesotans. This is a crucial read for anyone who wishes to gain a deeper and more profound understanding of the experiences of people of color in Minnesota, especially during a time when there is fertile ground for change.

The CSJ Confronting Whiteness and Racism Working Group supports greater awareness and understanding of the ways in which Whiteness and its ongoing systems of oppression and division function in our culture and society, so that we can begin to heal from it and truly move toward love of God and neighbor without distinction.  In the past year, the group has hosted a number of book groups to discuss A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, My Grandmother’s Hands, and White Fragility.  Learn more about the CSJ Confronting Whiteness and Racism Working Group or other community actions to understand and confront whiteness and racism.

June 1st, 2020