“Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” is the movie I thought I was watching at the College Democrat meeting Oct. 17.
The speaker doing the politician shuffle was State Sen. Vicki Jensen, and a skilled shuffle it was. She thoroughly dodged detailed answers on every question put to her. The impressions left in her wake have horrific ramifications for education, healthcare and racial justice.
Let’s start with education, something that is supposed to be sacred to every democrat, young and old. Senator Jensen’s position on education was a boilerplate for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party in her opening statement and differed a bit under questioning. When questioned on the achievement gap and the school to prison pipeline, she acknowledged them both and went on to state that the legislature was doing everything they could.
Even after her years on a school board, Jensen showed little knowledge of what either of these problems are and absolutely no understanding of the causal relationships behind either of these two racial issues. It is still not clear to this writer that she even understands, let alone recognizes, what this problem is even when given an example from the city of Duluth. She clearly makes no connection between hiring practices that keep teachers of color out as any part of the problem or that any racial targeting in school discipline exists.
She supports incremental building on Obamacare. Under questioning, it became very clear that she supports the continuation of the Caste-based healthcare system we have now. Her position is solidly against removing insurance companies from the profiteering position they presently hold. She also clearly admitted that she still takes campaign money from insurance company supporters, who are her fellow insurance agents. She steadfastly refused to support the one-size-fits-all universal healthcare, leaving the strong impression that she does not believe poor people have the same right to quality healthcare as her upper- and middle-class people.
Now comes the huge gorilla on the fence: racial justice, an issue the state party is reaching out to correct, but not Sen. Jensen—she steadfastly refused to recognize that any problem exists. When ask about police brutality, her answer supported the police, not the victims. When ask ed about drug warfare, she fell back on the “more study is needed” line. When it was pointed out that the DEA stifles studies on cannabis, she said she would work to change that, a cop out answer. When confronted about the racist targeting evident in cannabis arrests, she again was ambivalent and fell back on supporting the police and suggesting that more training would cure this blatant racism. While she recognized our compassion on these issues, she showed absolutely none herself, and continues standing steadfast against legalization of cannabis regardless of the facts given her.
I believe our campus communities of color need to make a concerted effort to help Sen. Jensen understand the racial ramifications of her belief systems. Help her understand that this is the 21st century and refusal to recognize racial justice issues is unacceptable in the new progressive realities of the Minnesota DFL, if it is to grow and be truly inclusive. Invite her to your meetings and make her listen. We must bring these party dinosaurs into reality or retire them.