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Faix speaks from personal experience

I would like to thank your editorial staff for publishing my recent Guest Column "Power and Race -- Crowley and Gates vs. Humanity" in your Sunday Aug. 9 issue. This was not the more academic rendering of systemic racism that I had in mind for perspective on the "teachable moment" out of the oval office. I decided it would reach a wider audience if I related it to a personal experience.

So here is the "rest of the story." By 1980 I had left my tenured faculty status at Macalester College in St. Paul, and out of necessity to pay the rent, I went back to part-time selling World Book Encyclopedia door to door. I had a list given me by some parents I knew in upscale Edina. I parked in front of a lovely home, like the one where Gates lived up in Cambridge. Having a rusted out 1975 Hornet Station Wagon apparently invited an Edina Crime Watch neighbor to call the local police.

Since I knew some of the families on that street perhaps I thought I was somehow exempt from the "Crime Watch." Wrong. Yes, the Edina police car pulled up behind me, lights flashing. "What are you doing here?" the officer asked. My initial inner response was more like "Sir, I am a faculty member at Macalester and began to pull out my faculty ID photo card and while I was at it to show him my Marine Corps Officer picture ID as a retired reserve colonel.

Gratefully, I did not do that wounded ego trip, natural to white males of privilege and relevant power. At my college classes and teacher groups in the metro area, I had been teaching Gandhi non-violence and looking for the potential good when we are being challenged. So I was able to thank him for his attention to duty and followed him to the Edina Police station. There I showed him what he needed to see and to help him fill the form. He had me apply for a "peddlers license" to be able to sell World Book in Edina. This gave me an unexpected win-win because my next calling as a career educator, was as principal of the Porcupine Day School (K-8) on the Pine Ridge (Sioux) Reservation in rural isolated South Dakota. This was and is a far, far cry from Macalester, the Ivy League, the Big Ten and worldly Minnesota metro.

In that historic Pine Ridge setting, my off reservation credentials meant very little. What has meaning is our basic authenticity as an educator who really cared about those children, their families, history, culture and future. Thank you esteemed Oglala-Sioux shaman, Black Elk, Mahatma Gandhi and Thomas Jefferson and yes, that Edina good neighbor and police officer. -- Tom Faix, Detroit Lakes

"Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation: and this means we must develop a world perspective..." Martin Luther King Jr.