Judgmental Mpls map creator speaks out: "The whole thing is satirical"
Sarah: "We need to have conversations about race, but it's so touchy that we have to really calculate how we say everything."
As her submission to the "Judgmental Maps" blog became an internet sensation yesterday, the creator of the Minneapolis one asked us to remove her name from our post.
Sarah -- she asked us not to use her last name for this piece -- was concerned her controversial creation was "being misinterpreted by about 75 percent of folks." Later in the day, we connected with her on the phone and got her to expand on the point she was trying to make with her map.
"The whole thing is satirical," Sarah, a resident in the neighborhood of "wannabe hipsters" (i.e., Lowry Hill East) said. "Judgmental maps are supposed to look at a city and pick out something that's really judgmental and potentially offensive about a certain group and look at how people view each other. It can be really offensive and really illuminating."
Sarah said she went to pains not to use any racially loaded terms in her map, but understands why people were offended by her characterization of the northside as the "Compton of the North."
"So many ideas are intimately linked in our heads to other stereotypes that even when we want to take a step back and be more open and accepting, it's always there in the background," she said. "The vast majority of Minneapolis views north Minneapolis as this super scary ghetto that everyone is scared to go to."
That said, Sarah acknowledged that if she had any idea her map would blow up like it did, she "would've tried to put more thought into it."
"I put most of it together, went for a walk, and finished it," she said.
"Satire can be a very powerful tool to make a point, [but] it definitely was not executed in the most skilled way," Sarah continued. "I thought, I'm going to say something really funny to get people's attention. That's the place that inspired this, and I definitely wasn't trying to perpetuate racial stereotypes but I can see how that happens from this and I regret how that happened."
Reaction to her work has been generally positive, however, with critical comments counterbalanced by appreciative ones and thousands of Facebook likes.
"Nobody seems to be taking offensive to anything other than north Minneapolis, though a lot of it is more critical of other people and neighborhoods. 'That fucking K-mart' -- as many people like that as hate the north Minneapolis one," she said.
But ultimately, Sarah said people who are offended by the characterization of the northside as the "Compton of the North" should examine their own assumptions as well.
"I was referring to the crime and violence, to a neighborhood people have tried to turn around a whole bunch of times and failed. I looked at the current demographics, and the vast majority of people that live [in Compton] are races other than African-American," Sarah said. "I naively assumed that would help make clear that the link was between violence and crime and the complicated social dynamics of the neighborhood rather than just race."
"If you hear Compton and think African-American that's an association in your mind. I didn't bring that into it," she continued. "Race never goes away and it won't until we live in a truly equal society, but the people who took offense on racial grounds brought more associations to the table than I did."
-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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