Why I’m proud to be “offended” by the judgemental map of Minneapolis

I’m sure the frequent readers of streets.mn have already viewed last week’s buzz map of Minneapolis. It depicts Minnesota’s largest city with a solid touch of satire and preconceived notion poking-fun-of. If you haven’t seen it, here it is below:

The cause of the Great Firestorm of 2013. Myth has it that Mrs. O'Leary's cow wrote it and burned down one-third of the local IP networks.

The cause of the Great Minneapolis Internet Fire of 2013. Myth has it that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow wrote it and it later burned down one-third of the local IP networks.

Obviously, this post may make you feel differently from your next door neighbor. You may feel like the description of your locale is right-on; on another hand, you may start to feel your  blood boiling from your idealistic Wedge neighborhood being called “Wannabe Hipsters”. (I can imagine the replies now… “To be fair, I lived here way before Target execs thought it was cool.”)

Before I say anything about the map itself, I’ll do the lawyer-like thing and list a definition of the word “satire” from dictionary.com.



“1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice.”

As far as my opinion goes, I don’t think it is in my best interest to say whether or not I liked the map. What I can say is, however, that I agree that the map composer (who later requested their name be removed due to the numerous complaints on the original website) used a generous amount of satire to describe the prejudice-based thoughts of peoples PERCEPTIONS of the areas. The “ridicule” element of the dictionary description of satire is very present. I really do think that the author was ridiculing the uneducated perceptions that these areas receive, not directly and ignorantly labeling them.  Yes, the whole “Compton of the North” label may have been a little harsh, but at the same time, I think the map composer wasn’t claiming it to be the end-all-be-all description of North Minneapolis. Rather, it summarized (exposed and denounced) the viceridden thoughts that many have of the area. (These thoughts are based off of a comment from who I think is the author of the map.)

Like I said, it isn’t my place to say if I liked the map or not, to loudly proclaim its success (“WHOO! It’s about time someone pointed out Minnesota Nice’s edginess!”) or to solemnly denounce its message (“Your relentless mockery disgusts me”). What I can say, however, is that I am extremely proud to live in a city where these types of discussion occur.

While you are at it, go ahead and take a look at the other maps on the Judgemental Maps site. Although the Minneapolis map may have had unintentionally direct racist undertones, there were no full-on shout-outs to racial differences. On the other hand, take a look at Chicago, Phoenix, New York, and Denver. The comment numbers on these much harsher maps on the evening of Sunday, April 28th is as follows:

Denver: 16 Comments

New York: 1 Comment

Phoenix: 0 Comments

Chicago: 0 Comments

And our map of Minneapolis? 144 Comments.

My main point in this comparison is that the conversation of racial, cultural, and class equality is happening in Minnesota. People in the great northern state actually give a crap about what people say and think of others. People are readily willing to defend others in the wake of prejudice, and the fact that people cared so much to thoughtfully criticize the carefully worded descriptions in this map is a virtue that should be acknowledged.

It also indirectly says something about how Minnesotans carefully accept and intelligently respond to certain types of things, including new developments, gentrification, transportation politics, and general civic pride. People care about what people do to and say about their neighborhood, about their city and state. When a new apartment building is proposed or a street is planned to be altered, citizens of Minneapolis (and St. Paul too) are often active at the community meetings. It was in the “Beer Snobs” neighborhood where the proposed I-335 was shot down and became one of the very few cancelled interstates. Although there are probably a large number of exceptions, a good majority of the population in Minnesota want to make sure that “all men are created equal”, that any stab at a certain location can be defended and argued, that any proposed land use or infrastructure project is questioned, intelligently altered, and built with the approval of the citizens.

Of course conversations like this occur in Chicago and Phoenix, and of course some people may have overreacted to the map, but the fact that the Minneapolis map gained so much attention, garnered so much discussion, and even had a Star Tribune article written about it, is a praise to the population of the Gopher State.

Chris Iverson

About Chris Iverson

Chris Iverson is a transportation engineer & planner for the City of Bellevue, WA and currently lives in Seattle. He holds degrees in both Civil Engineering & Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota, and worked on a myriad of transit & multimodal transportation projects in the Twin Cities. He is a former Minnesota Daily columnist, RAGBRAI participant, bad musician, marathon finisher, and an unabashed generalist.

17 thoughts on “Why I’m proud to be “offended” by the judgemental map of Minneapolis

  1. tr

    The problem is that there’s a lot of ridicule in the map, but there’s no exposure of, or derision towards, the racist stereotypes that exist in phrases like “too scary to investigate” and “Compton of the North.” This isn’t challenging the perception that poor, violent black people live in these neighborhoods, it’s reinforcing it.

    That the creator of the map went to great pains to explain herself (and even then didn’t really clearly explain what she meant) and that the Star Tribune article has garnered lots of thumbs-ups for horribly racist comments shows how much of a failure this map is if it’s to be considered satire.

    This is just a list of stereotypes that someone took the time to put on a map without any real thought attached. If I stand on a street corner and just spew racist stereotypes, it’s not “satire,” it’s hate and ignorance. I don’t see how this map is much different.

    1. Matt

      I’m with you, tr. It might be labeled “satire,” but it was poorly executed satire at best. It may have made some people laugh, and pissed off others, but it definitely reinforced stereotypes in many people. The map’s defenders were criticizing people who were offended, but failed to criticize the racist comments (!?) or question the reason why people were saying that the “satirical” depictions we accurate.

      The map takes the voice of a white, 20-something who doesn’t get out of their social circle much. It would be funnier – and better received – if the title reflected that or it was spelled out better in the neighborhood observations.

  2. Frank

    I lived in Minneapolis for 6 years and this is why I had to leave. Stop taking yourselves so god damn seriously. You’re really not that important.

    “It also indirectly says something about how Minnesotans carefully accept and intelligently respond to certain types of things, including new developments, gentrification, transportation politics, and general civic pride. People care about what people do to and say about their neighborhood, about their city and state. When a new apartment building is proposed or a street is planned to be altered, citizens of Minneapolis (and St. Paul too) are often active at the community meetings.”

    Self-important much? That happens everywhere. Get over yourselves. My god.

    1. Chris

      I’ve lived here my whole life and I have to agree, Frank. This is one of the most annoying things about Minnesotans. I wish people would lighten up.

  3. CNG

    Tr, you are bringing your own preconceptions to what “Compton of the North” means. You state that it is a statement about poor black people, but in actuality it is not. I do know the author of this map and they have explained multiple times that this comment was related to a socio-cultural perception of the neighborhood. They even took time to look up the actual demographics of Compton before choosing to use this label. If you did you would find the similarities of the neighborhoods are not based on racial assumptions.

    I spent 5 years in the twin cities and while there are things I loved I do have to say that this moral outrage for others is wearing. Minnesota folk cannot bear to be percieved as having any politically incorrect actions or thoughts. Forget the fact that the neighborhood has some major socio-economic and violence problems, we should never ever comment on that or some might think we are racist (because that’s where the black people live).

    The fact that you and others found this “racist” and/or “careless” says more about your preconceptions of the neighborhood than it does of the author’s. Maybe you should explore why “racism” is something you brought into it.

    A person in Denver who few up in “Gangway” and now lives in “Taxi Cab”

  4. tr

    CNG, the creator of the map ultimately admitted that race played at least a small part in why she chose the term “Compton” to refer to that map, and if she wasn’t intending it to mean something that matched my “preconceptions,” then she, again, failed miserably in this “satire.” Compton is known to people outside of those who live there as a dangerous black ghetto. There’s really no disputing that, and you’ve got to think I’m some sort of idiot to think that the author carefully chose “Compton” based upon something other than the similar racial demographics and perceptions of North Minneapolis of people who don’t live there.

    This isn’t about being politically correct (and you’ve pretty much lost all credibility by throwing out that term without thinking about what it really means), this is about calling out racism and the knee-jerk propagation of stereotypes. It’s fine to comment on the fact that North Minneapolis has problems with crime. In fact, we should probably talk more about that and why there is crime there and what we can do about it. But that’s not what this map does. All it’s doing is reinforcing perceptions about that neighborhood without moving the conversation forward.

      1. tr

        But we’re not having the right conversations. All we’re doing is saying that it’s a perception of some people that “limousine liberals” live near Lake of the Isles and that violent black people live in north Minneapolis. That’s not a conversation, that’s just repeating what people (rightly or wrongly) think about certain neighborhoods.

        It’s not the map that’s moving the conversations forward, it’s the way the map brought people together who see that this map is harmful who are moving the conversation forward. Everyone who thinks this map is funny doesn’t want to have the conversation; they think we are wrong for even bringing it up. That this map exposed this dominant thinking in Minneapolis is a fact for which I guess we can be thankful, but I maintain that if this is satire, it falls on its face.

        1. Chris IversonChris Iverson Post author

          As mentioned before, to the authors credit, they did not specifically mention direct racist remarks. The author could have DEFINITELY made North Minneapolis seem even less desirable. In fact, the author could have said Compton in reference to the racial diversity of the South L.A. area, not necessarily the crime/poverty rates.

          My main point for this article was to compare the feedback for the other city maps. Have you seen the map for Chicago (“Blacks“ and “Crime“ underneath I-290) and Phoenix (“Injuns“ and “The Rez“)? Yikes. Pretty harsh. The fact that the Minneapolis map doesnt come close to remarks like that and people still are discussing and criticizing it, whereas the Chicago and the Phoenix maps have NO comments or any attention whatsoever, is what I was trying to emphasize.

        2. Ohai. Author of map here.

          Oh geez. Now it’s happening over here.

          I am not going to get into a big, lengthy discussion over here but I do have a few things to add:

          First: This is what was said about why I chose “Compton of the North” in the original tumblr feed:

          “I chose a term that a lot of people associate with race, and that was a naive judgment on my part. …. But no, I actually did not choose Compton to match the racial demographics of the area. I worked very hard to leave race off of this map entirely. The other maps on this website all talk about race (and talk about it satirically), but I really just didn’t want to go there. Why would I go to pains to leave race out of it entirely and then put it in anyway? I chose Compton…because it’s a culturally-recognizable reference. …. And yes, part of its cultural recognizability is its historic racial makeup – a naive calculation on my part.”

          Yet tr claims that I “ultimately admitted that race played at least a small part in why [I] chose the term ‘Compton'”. Where exactly did I “admit” that? When I said it was “naive” to assume that people would associate Compton with its other characteristics, as opposed to its race? It seems to me that tr sees exactly what he/she wants to see. and nothing more, nothing less. (Or else, he/she has reading comprehension issues.) As a friend of mine said about the Great Minneapolis Internet Fire of 2013, “[T]he Internet is like a Petri dish for confirmation bias.” If tr believes that CNG must think he/she is “some kind of idiot” for thinking that I “carefully chose ‘Compton’ based upon something other than the similar racial demographics”, then I suspect that tr has never achieved the ability to see the world through any lens other than race.

          Second: Okay, here is what is really crazy to me about this whole discussion – everyone who is decrying this map as racist apparently looks at North Minneapolis and sees a “black neighborhood”. Not a neighborhood full of people who are socially diverse and lower-income and predominantly black – a “black neighborhood”. Any descriptor applied to North Minneapolis is seen as a stereotype that is being applied to ALL black people everywhere.

          I have trouble distinguishing this from the “racism” that I am supposedly guilty of. When your understanding of the relationship between geography and race causes you to relate every single thing said or perceived about a neighborhood back to the race of the majority of the people who live there, how can you ever avoid having unfair and unfounded preconceptions about people of a particular race? You can’t.

          The handful of people who have viewed this map as racist seem to think that I’m a clueless suburbanite who not only wholeheartedly believes the stereotypes presented about North Minneapolis, but derives pleasure from poking fun at violent brown people. To the contrary, I live in the city, and work for a non-profit with both a staff and clientele that represent the full spectrum of race, class, and life experiences. I ride the #2 or #16 bus to work, depending on where I am working that day. I was raised in a place (in Denver) that others stereotyped as violent and scary. I was once on food stamps.

          And I made this map because I think that stereotypes are interesting, hilarious, and ridiculous.

          And that is all I am going to say about it. Though if you (tr) want to continue to grind your axe, you should contact Will Wright at KFAI, because he wants to interview someone who does.

          To Chris Iverson – thank you for this post. Throughout this Great Minneapolis Internet Fire of 2013, I have never once wished that Minneapolis were a less sensitive place. (And if anyone got that impression from the Strib article, that’s because the journalist cut out the part where I said that the sensitivity in this regard is actually one of my favorite things about the city, and one of the reasons I stay here even though the weather f***ing sucks.) Everything you point out here is a point of pride for me when I contemplate my adopted city. I thank you for pointing out the positive in this tragic internet fire.

  5. tr

    Chris, I don’t know what “direct racism” is or how it differs from “indirect racism.” The point is that it took a lot of teeth-pulling before the creator of the map even acknowledged that the term “Compton” had a racial component, and even now she’s backing away from it. I have my own theories on why the Chicago and Phoenix maps don’t have many comments, and they’re mostly related to how there are a few clever things on this map and how parochial and in love with itself this town seems to be.

    And really, no matter how many times you repeat it, “Author,” I’m not going to believe you when you say that you somehow carefully chose the term “Compton” to refer to the blackest part of the city by carefully examining the history and similarities between a suburb of a Los Angeles and north Minneapolis that have nothing to do with race. You obviously didn’t carefully consider the neighborhood dynamics of the area you call “art snobs,” because nobody actually lives in that part of town. If this is supposed to be a map making fun of perceptions, why would you carefully choose a non-race-based word to describe one neighborhood but then fall back on knee-jerk depictions of every other part of the city? It doesn’t make sense.

    You’re misunderstanding our criticisms of the term “Compton.” Compton means a black neighborhood, but it also refers to a specific type of black neighborhood, namely one full of violence. You could have chosen any number of other black neighborhoods or areas if race is what you were going for, such as Ladera Heights, Harlem, or Cascade Heights. I doubt you would have had any of the criticisms had you used any of these other terms, which are not as associated with violence and a specific type of black person as “Compton” is. Similarly, had you referred to a non-race-based descriptor of neighborhoods high in crime, such as “NRA Land,” there wouldn’t be any criticism of your map as racist.

    If you made the map because you think stereotypes are interesting, hilarious, and ridiculous, you could have done a better job of showing that, because people aren’t getting the joke. Most of the commenters on the original post have comments along the lines of “these are absolutely true” or “this is so funny because it’s so true.” People aren’t realizing that you’re criticizing their perceptions; you’re simply reinforcing them. You didn’t get the point across that these stereotypes or preconceptions are wrong, if in fact it was your intent to make fun of them or get people to stop using them.

    I don’t wish that Minneapolis was a less sensitive place. I wish Minneapolis were a place where racism could be discussed and not disregarded as something only “sensitive” people want to discuss.

    1. "Author"

      I am not “backing away from” anything. You are mixing up me stating that yes, Compton is culturally-associated with African-Americans (which I said) with me saying that I chose Compton BECAUSE it is associated with African-Americans (which I did not say and am not saying now).

      Also, your refusal to believe that someone could choose Compton to refer to anything other than race speaks volumes about YOU, and your inability to separate the thought of a given neighborhood from the race of the people who live there.

      Given these two areas of incomprehension on your part, I have no idea why I’m even bothering to hash this out with you anymore, so I won’t be.

      1. David

        This is a common ploy when someone has been called out for making insensitive comments. The one doing the calling is labeled a “racist” for being sensitive to racial dynamics.

        This is not helpful. tr has VERY good points here and it would do all of us well to listen to them. There is a huge racial dynamic in the Twin Cities and white folk don’t want to acknowledge it. That’s part of our white privilege. We can ignore race. People of color can’t.

        The people complaining about the map are not primarily concerned about what the author does or does not think as an individual. They’re upset that the map reinforces damaging stereotypes and associations that have long led to disinvestment and abandonment of certain neighborhoods by the white establishment. I don’t give a crap what “Author” thinks. I very much DO give a crap that this map makes it that much harder to get people to explore the wonderful stuff in North Minneapolis.

        It’s about perception and it’s about outcomes. To me, it’s not about thought or intent at all.

    2. Matt B

      Actually tr, I’m almost certain “art snobs” refers to International Market Square, and yes, people do live there. Big fail on your part. The only real misfire (without getting into the whole northside thing) was “renters who can’t afford south Minneapolis” up in far Northeast. That area is mostly tiny postwar single-family homes…and train tracks. A better label would’ve been Lower Columbia Heights or some Anoka County joke. For Bryn Mawr, I would move the NIMBY label elsewhere, like Cedar-Isles-Dean. The perfect label for Bryn Mawr would’ve been “people who say they live in Golden Valley” or “not north Minneapolis”

  6. Chris

    One point I’d like to make about this whole “Compton of the North” discussion…it seems like everyone is using a stereotype of Compton to say North Minneapolis is not like Compton. SO what this whole discussion means to me is that its ok to use a stereotype to say that North Minneapolis isn’t a stereotype. Speaking as a wannabe hipster, I think we all should embrace where we live and have a little laugh, if the fun hasn’t been sucked out of this place already.

  7. minneapolisite

    I just thought it was funny: especially the ones that were spot on. Yes, Loring Park = gay renters (I live there now) and that part of NE is “real hipsters” for sure (I lived there the year before).

    And the descriptions of North are dead on too as far as perception goes. Anyone who’s lived in just about any other decent-sized American city will find some locals’ relative descriptions of North, “bad” or “worst” for example, to be adorable. North’s worst can’t even compare to other similarly sized cities where neighborhoods much worse are also more abundant. It’s “bad” compared to other Mpls neighborhoods which tend to be by and large healthy overall, but it’s more “problematic” than anything else. North has a handful of great reasons to make the trek over there for non-residents and if there were more I’m sure we’d see more familiarity and less fear or the “don’t ever go there” mindset if that were the case. The fact that middle-aged suburbanites are willing to go to Donnie Dirk’s in *gasp* North is sight you just won’t see in many other larger cities. Hell, in most an entrepreneur would be too scared to go forward with such a concept within the boundaries of a “bad” or “worst” neighborhood in the first place.

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