Shannon Drury
Shannon Drury

by Shannon Drury

As a resident of Minneapolis, a city grappling with historical racism as it attempts new zoning laws, I could have listened to Nelima Sitati Munene speak about housing justice for hours at a recent MWP Conversation. I love my hometown, but I’m not blind to its segregation or to the way it uncomfortably balances aw-shucks exceptionalism with some of the worst racial disparities in the country. 

White residents like me are taught that we are a tolerant, liberal group. Yet we get very touchy when it is suggested that persistent advocacy for our own interests collides with the Greater Good. Nowhere is that tension more apparent than when we talk about where people ought to live. 

A few blocks from where I am raising my family is a granite marker in front of a small cottage that honors Arthur and Edith Lee, the Black couple who moved there in 1931 and refused to budge despite the violent white mobs calling for their expulsion. Th e marker is important but ironic, since 21st century gentrification is pushing working class people of color out of the area. 

Last summer the small two-bedroom house across the alley from me sold for $240,000 to flippers who gutted it, HGTV’d it, and relisted it for over $600,000. Pure capitalists assert that this is what the market demands, but any empathic person knows that American capitalism has a bitter, racist heart. To paraphrase the Lees in 1931: Arthur didn’t fight a world war for that. 

What would better serve the Lees’ memory? At the Voices & Vote event, Munene lamented that no 2018 candidate talked seriously about building public housing. “Affordable housing” is just a buzzword lacking genuine legislative heft . Meanwhile, the executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center recently referenced white Minneapolitans’ battle against housing density as a cause of the homeless encampment on Hiawatha Avenue. 

The Voice & Vote event changed me from a passive supporter of rezoning plans to an advocate for safe public housing. I’ve already used my vote: now to add my voice.