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Councilor responds with “gratitude” to racist depiction of Duluth city leaders

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DULUTH, MN-- Amid national turmoil and calls for racial justice,
an example of racism in our own back yard.

An image edited and shared on social media over the weekend targets Duluth Mayor Emily Larson and several council members.

It uses Native American stereotypes and the words "Explaining Duluth City Council Priorities".

The post comes days after the Mayor's proposal to remove the word "chief" from a couple of city job titles.

City Councilor Renee Van Nett, the lone Native American council member, found herself in the middle of an odd request over the weekend.

"I was wowed by the cartoon itself," said Van Nett.

A request to be tagged in a racially charged photo on Facebook, targeting her and other city leaders.

The 4th District Councilor said, "I felt bad for my colleagues that they didn't need to experience that even though I experience that normally and that's a regular thing."

Though the image appears to shed a negative light on the council and the issues addressed, Councilor Van Nett said after some time reflecting, she learned a valuable lesson through the depiction.

She said, "It showed to be about resiliency in our community. It showed me about who we are and that I'm grateful for everybody who stepped up and sent texts, sent voicemail's, sent messages."

A wave of support from community members including those in the indigenous community who opened Van Nett's eyes to a whole other special meaning behind the image.

She said some made her see the picture in a more positive light. "It shows that you have an impact. You made a positive impact in this town if they're going to show this picture this way."

She said that support took away the anger and fear she was experiencing and made her feel at peace. "When you're feeling attacked and then so many people have your back, you're like okay I guess I'm safe."

To anyone in the community feeling targeted by similar, hateful messages, Van Nett has some advice. "You should not allow it to hurt you and stop you from being you. From being everything you want and need to be."

Councilor Van Nett said the council won't be distracted by the image.

The council is still expected to take up the proposal to remove the word "chief" from the charter.

They will also continue hashing out the city's budget before heading into a summer recess.

CBS 3 did reach out to the editor of the picture. They did not respond for a comment.

Jessie Slater

Evening Anchor and Reporter

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