I am Izell Robinson, Minnesota inmate number 210006.
I am today- due to the persistent COVID quarantine lockdowns at my facility, I have been limited in my access to share commentaries. Therefore, last month I was unable to share anything to honor Black History Month. However, today I want to share a compare-are-contrast essay I penned which will be a series honoring both Black History Month and the current Women’s History Month.
The title of the essay is “The Parallel Lives of Norris and Kyle: One City, Two Broken Families, and Adolescent Years of Racism Versus Desired Success.” This is part one.
A Chicago, IL native son, I was recruited to Minnesota in my late teen years on scholarship to the University of Minnesota, Morris. As a person of darker hue skin living in Minnesota, I’ve experienced both transparent and camouflaged racism. As a result of the frustration of dealing with racism and being a well-educated dark-skinned man early and late in my life, I have wondered if women of color experience a similar plight of racism. How has the fancy “Minnesota Nice” experience been for a dark-skinned girl or woman looking to succeed in a white-dominated society? Well, I got the answer to this very question.
After reading excerpts of The Grace of Silence, a family memoir by author Michelle North and Minnesota Black, Minnesota Blue by author [inaudible]. I learned that even with her fantabulous upbringing Norris was produced from, she still experienced the heinous flattery of racism and family pain which is parallel to Kyle who had a chaotic upbringing that invited the fatuity of racism and family pain.
Yet even more parallel, their experience is exclusive to being raised in south Minneapolis, MN during a separation of two decades with two different family circumstances. Still they both have the same sentiments about race and achieving success as Minnesotans. Yet their story shaped the experience of racism as one of moral dishonor. It is clearly evident that Minnesota is a place of racism for the darker hue skin girl or boy, man or woman. Kyle says it best: “Racism was here in Minnesota before the area was a state or even a white man’s territory.” Both Tocy Kyle and Michelle Norris had parents who left home and separated or divorced, all while maintaining a presence within the family for their kids’ sake.
Kyle’s father left, and while it was Norris’s mom who left, similarly they both would live and experience upscale lifestyles in middle-class areas of south Minneapolis. Their neighborhood experience would introduce them to the effects of racism from neighbors towards themselves and family members when they were young. This was mainly because they lived in south Minneapolis during tumultuous times of racism and injustice in America.
Interestingly, both women shared a special connection and appreciation for their fathers. Both fathers seemed to strive at work to get their families to a better position in life, yet they didn’t seem to share the same level of connection or appreciation with their moms as they did with their fathers.
These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.