Minneapolis candidate Gary Schiff, white guy, called out for sins of pigmentation

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"You are a white man running for elected office at a moment of intense division in this country, particularly around race and white supremacy," reads Susan Raffo's letter.

Susan Raffo decided to write a love letter earlier this month.

The resident of Minneapolis' 9th Ward, which includes the East Phillips and Powderhorn Park neighborhoods, penned the missive to Gary Schiff, the former mayoral candidate who's currently vying to unseat City Councilwoman Alondra Cano, the panel's only Latino member in the city's 150-year history.

"… [T]his is a love letter," it begins, "a letter of hope in the way that hope lives in the places where we hold each other accountable, ask the hard questions, and tell the truth about disappointment."

That's what Raffo did, expressing why she was "disappointed" in Schiff in the ensuing ten paragraphs.

She's known him for 23 years, Cano only six. But Raffo's backing Cano. According to her "open letter," she's opposing Schiff for one main reason: He's a white man. 

"You are a white man running for elected office at a moment of intense division in this country, particularly around race and white supremacy," she writes. "You are choosing to put yourself forward against a Latina, an immigrant.… As a white man choosing to run at this moment, you have agreed to participate in this moment of deep racial pain and divide."

In addition to his genetic trespass, Raffo says Schiff has compounded the matter because of personal choices. Specifically, his decision to challenge Cano.

"I don't understand why someone with your experience and relationships doesn't immediately say to Council Member Cano, 'It matters deeply to me that you are successful in your role on the City Council. We all need you to be successful. Tell me how I can help… how I can support your leadership.'"

Instead, Raffo reprimands Schiff for possessing the gall to believe he has "a better idea for what needs to be done."

Schiff warmly recalls the days of decades past when he, along with Raffo and a few others, would gather in his living room on Saturday mornings to discuss "queer literature."   

He points to the heroin crisis ransacking neighborhoods. Schiff contends the scourge continues unchecked. He wants the city to step up. Taking a lead role is a reason he's running. 

"There's been no response, no basic public health approaches to address the epidemic that are being engaged by the city," Schiff says. "There are things we can do. A needle exchange program. Narcan should be carried by police officers. There should be safe use facilities."

He also says expansion at the city's two Public Works facilities in the ward present an opportunity. Schiff wants to establish "a gateway to the trades" for neighborhood residents so they may have "better access to those good jobs."

But differences of race and gender is what Raffo was addressing, not positions on issues.  

"I haven't talked to her in about a decade," Schiff says. "I have nothing but good memories of those times in my living room."   

Raffo did not respond to repeated interview requests. She did write Schiff a second letter, dated Feb. 8.

"I started the [original] letter by naming it as a love letter," her follow up reads. "It still is." 


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