Racism in Ramsey County

My childhood home

Racism is everywhere it is baked into our culture and our communities. As racism pertains to housing it goes way back.

I have been helping with the “Mapping Prejudice” project and reading deeds for properties in Ramsey County. Some of them have deed restrictions that prevent people of color from purchasing the property.  The deeds are going to be mapped . . hence the name “mapping prejudice”

For me looking at the deeds has been interesting because I have lived in St. Paul for a long time and my Mother’s family is from St. Paul too. I recognize the family names of people I went to school with.

Here is a restrictive covenant I found on a deed yesterday:

Said property shall not be sold or rented to or used by any person except a person or persons of the White Caucasian Race, but persons or other races may occupy the premises when employed as servants by the owners.

There are entire developments in Ramsey County with racially restrictive covenants. I have found the covenants in 10 subdivisions in White Bear Lake, St. Paul, and Vadnais Heights.

Racial covenants have hurt people of color and their families. They can no longer be enforced but they are part of the reason why we have neighborhoods where mostly white people live.

Homeownership isn’t just about having a place to live it is also a way to build wealth.

A look back to July of 2019

I wrote this a year ago during a simpler happier time. These days the part of downtown that is near the Landmark Center and Library is like a ghost town. It is rare to see anyone in Rice Park. The park used to be a busy place.

The Lowertown area is a different story. There are a lot of people out and about all day and all night. For some reason, the city turned off and none of the fountains in St. Paul have water in them. The stream that used to run through Mears park is just a cement ditch.

Things have changed a lot since last July. This is what I wrote back then:

Parts of downtown St. Paul are getting a little sprucing up. Downtown St. Paul has been undergoing revitalization and sprucing up for the last several decades.

The efforts can be seen at the East and West ends of downtown. In the middle, there is a lot of pigeon poop on the sidewalks.

The Saint Paul Downtown Alliance is a new organization that represents downtown businesses, nonprofits, government entities, residents, and entrepreneurs to build a strong and vibrant downtown and create a positive downtown experience.

One very visible project to spruce up downtown St. Paul is the mosaic trash cans. I want to take pictures of all of them because they are really beautiful.  They were designed by Mosaic artist Daniela Bianchin.

Here is just one of the art pieces near Rice Park.

I am going to revisit this next July. I wonder what downtown will look like then. I wonder what the world will be like.

Afraid of garter snakes?

Fear of snakes is common and people who are afraid of snakes are afraid of garter snakes too and some people

Hummingbird

have ophiophobia, which is an irrational fear of snakes. I can’t recommend the part of the West 7th neighborhood that is along the river bluff to people who suffer from ophiophobia.

There have been people who bought houses in the neighborhood but could not live in them. In one case the buyer bought the home during the winter and didn’t see a snake until several months later.

It is a good idea to make a note on the seller’s disclosure about the garter snakes and encourage prospective buyers to read up on local garter snakes before making a commitment. The snakes can be found anywhere in Minnesota and throughout St. Paul.

They don’t bite and are not poisonous and generally avoid people. They like the warmer soil along the limestone river bluffs.

Homebuyers should be made aware of garter snakes in the area but there is no requirement that their existence be disclosed.

Putting a picture of a snake in a blog post scares readers away so I decided to go with a hummingbird portrait instead. Everyone likes hummingbirds.

Only the strong will survive

A few small businesses in my area have closed for good. I think one or two of them may have been struggling a bit before the pandemic.

A year from now there will be fewer small businesses and some new small businesses.

Candyland has been around since 1932. I think they will survive. They opened shortly after the lockdown and offer curbside pick up.

They have adapted and will continue to do so, which is a good thing because I am a Chicago Mix popcorn addict and I’ll need my next fix soon.

Candyland
Candyland on Wabasha street downtown St. Paul

Rice park isn’t getting many visitors

Rice Park
Rice Park
Rice park fountain

I took the pictures downtown during what used to be rush hour. The library is closed because of the pandemic and there isn’t any water on in the park. People used to cut through the park on their way to work and there were always people sitting on the benches.

The fountain is empty and so is the park except for that one lone pigeon who is probably hungry.

If you are looking for a quiet place that isn’t crowded where you can enjoy the outdoors I have found it.