Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fargo Farrago

Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton are the leads in a quirky, dark and grimly funny new FX series, Fargo. Mr. Rogers meets Psychopaths R Us. Talk about persona and shadow! Although it references the movie, the story takes place in 2006 in Bemidji, Minnesota.

I was curious about this place. I only discovered its existence by accident, at a midwest airport layover years ago, when a bunch of college kids were heading back to school there. Strange name.

According to the look of the series, Bemidji is a very Caucasian Midwest little town in the midst of the Northern lakes and plains and woods, bordering extreme SW Ontario, next door to North Dakota, and a bit west of Lake Superior. 

The data on Bemidji --an Ojibway Indian name-- is odd, however. It is 85% White, with a population of only 13,000 but with a crime index highest in its state and higher than a lot of the USA. Mostly theft and burglary. Hardly any Blacks or Latinos in town.

Wassup wit dat? 

Here's the geo and demographic details: 
In 2010 the city was 81.3% White, 1.2% African American, 11.3% Native American, 1.4% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.3% from other races, and 4.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.9% of the population.
Bemidji houses many Native American services, including the Indian Health Service. The city is the central hub of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, White Earth Indian Reservation and the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.   

When I found this 2004 article about the ACLU, it became clear what the story is. Indians.

Crime statistics in northern Minnesota are alarming. In Cass County, for example, American Indians make up only about 11 percent of the population, yet in 1999, they accounted for more than half the arrests. 
If you break it down by specific crimes, the disparities are even more apparent. About 70 percent of people arrested for assault and larceny in Cass County were Indian. Indians accounted for nearly 80 percent of those arrested for vehicle theft and vandalism.

Of course, the notion that Indians get arrested more because they break the law more...well, dass juss be raciss.


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