Last week in Ramsey County, some county employees were required to watch a documentary called “White Like Me” that discusses how “race-based white entitlement programs” built the American middle class.
The requirement to watch the documentary is part of Ramsey County’s intention to “DARE to engage in racial equity work,” according to an email sent to staff that was obtained by Alpha News.
Ramsey County’s policy statement on advancing racial equity states that “all county leaders, department managers, supervisors, and staff are responsible for adopting and applying this policy to the core functions and essential services of each unit.”
The email says that staff members in the finance department, in alignment with the county’s goals, will “intentionally engage in racial equity work” and apply those lessons to their work in the county. The documentary was to be viewed prior to an all-staff meeting and follow-up questions were addressed at the meeting, according to the email.
“White Like Me” was co-created in 2013 by American activist and writer Tim Wise, who calls himself an “antiracist educator.” The title of the documentary plays off the book “Black Like Me,” which was published in 1961 by John Howard Griffin.
In the documentary, Wise discusses how “dangerous and damaging it is when white people like me are blind to racial inequality and our own privileges.” He expresses how he learned at a very early age that “race mattered” because his parents chose to send him to a preschool program at a historically black college in Tennessee.
Wise also states that white privilege can be seen in how the “starting gate” for “white families and for people of color” was uneven from the beginning because “for hundreds of years, government assistance programs pumped literally hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars worth of wealth into the hands of white families.”
Alpha News reached out to Ramsey County for comment but did not receive a response.
Megan Olson is a 2020 graduate of the University of Minnesota with degrees in political science and history. She works in public affairs in addition to serving on the Legislative Advisory Council for School District 196. She is also on the school board for FIT academy, a charter school in Apple Valley.