The records of history are invaluable in helping us build a complete picture of where we’ve been and form a guide of where we want to go. Learning from what we did right and what we did wrong are key elements of human progress.

It’s that perspective that makes efforts to examine how racial covenants affected the formation of Mankato-North Mankato neighborhoods a worthwhile project.

A coalition spearheaded by the Greater Mankato Diversity Council will be examining clauses put in residential property contracts that prohibited people of color from buying houses in certain areas decades ago. Local advocates began a partnership earlier this year with the University of Minnesota’s Mapping Prejudice Project. Those university cartographers and geographers already have put together an outline of how racial housing codes affected how Minneapolis neighborhoods were formed.

A less diverse and much smaller city, Mankato-North Mankato may not turn out to have the same pattern of discrimination that the Minneapolis mapping revealed, but it’s important to know what happened here from about 1910 to the 1960s when those covenants were used.

Whatever researchers and volunteers find while digging through housing records, it’s a sure thing they will find some evidence of formalized discrimination. Blue Earth County Commissioner Colleen Landkamer said she’s heard from friends who recently sold their house and discovered language in their property agreements that only allowed the home to be sold to Caucasians.

Diversity Council Executive Director Bukata Hayes makes clear why this historic research is important: “This is an extension of us as a community being intentional about reconciling our past.”

It’s the same philosophy that supports the action behind the St. Paul police chief wanting to eliminate language in the state constitution that says slavery is acceptable when used as a criminal punishment. The document is too important to retain an outdated law with such an ugly past.

This community has seen how important reconciling is when it comes to acknowledgment of how native people were treated during white settlement. Local historians have made deliberate efforts to paint a complete picture about the context of the U.S.-Dakota War and what led up to it. We also welcome Dakota horse riders and runners to Mankato every Dec. 26 when they gather to remember the 38 plus 2 who were hanged here in a mass execution after the 1862 war.

Knowing the history here and how it affected people of all races helps us to recognize society’s shortfalls and motivates us to strive to do better.

Those interested in volunteering on the local mapping project can contact Bukata Hayes with the Greater Mankato Diversity Council at bhayes@mankatodiversity.org or at 507-385-6653.

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