John Reinan, Star Tribune (Minneapolis/St. Paul), Nov. 18, 2006
Since his election to the Minneapolis school board two weeks ago, Chris Stewart has been criticized for his involvement with a racially themed Web page that satirized another political candidate.
But Stewart, 38, has a history of writing provocative racial commentary.
A review of postings at another Internet site he owned and published from 1998 until June this year shows that he and a small group of regular contributors threw racial barbs freely.
On the site, called American Hot Sausage, they described Minnesota Vikings fans as “anti-negro revelers,” mocked Minnesota DFLers for their “tired-old-white-guy strategy” and handed out “Coon Awards” to blacks they considered too cozy with the white power structure.
Others in the school system are criticizing Stewart’s conduct. Outgoing school board member Joseph Erickson said last week that Stewart’s actions are in “direct conflict with our work to promote diversity.”
In interviews Friday and Saturday, Stewart defended American Hot Sausage, calling it “a literate blog with a biting sense of humor.”My view is, there have to be safe spaces for people to have free speech,” he said. “I love free speech and I have a point of view. I don’t think people enjoy their free speech enough.”
Stewart also called race “the elephant in the living room” and said it’s important for Americans to discuss the issue frankly. “We have to start by telling the truth about race, and being able to create a space where we can talk about it without prejudice.”
“Anyone would be a fool to pretend these conversations [about race] do not take place and that they do not exist,” he said. “You would have to be in the worst form of denial to pretend people do not say or think these things. And therefore, why hide it?
“If you’ve written stuff and other people have written with you, does that discount you from political service?” Stewart said. “If the stuff is potent, does that discount you from participating in democracy?”