12-year-old sexual politics in a lake near “Mde Maka Ska”, Minneapolis

As I lay on my back in Lake Harriet, one of Minnesota’s 11,842 lakes, I watched butterflies fluttering by overhead across the cloudy blue sky. The water was fresh from last night’s rainstorm. Two 12-year-old boys treading water nearby picked up a conversation.

WORLDLYBOY: “That’s why you can’t send Michaela a picture. Cos she has a black boyfriend.”
JUSTAKID: [Doesn’t respond. He swims a little distance away.]
WORDLYBOY: “Your organ will always be smaller even than little Joel’s.” [Laughs]
JUSTAKID: “Oh.”
He dunks himself, emerges spluttering green algae flavored water.
WORLDLYBOY: “You know what Mike told me? Little Joel already gets erections.”
JUSTAKID: “Really? Why?”
WORLDLYBOY: “Just when he needs to pee. Not the ones full of cum and stuff.”
JUSTAKID: [Treads water. Treads water.]
WORLDLYBOY: “I wanna look that up in the Guinness Book of Records: ‘The youngest person to ever jerk off’. And ‘The oldest person to ever jerk off.’
JUST A KID: [Swims to shore]

Almost everyone in Minneapolis lives within a mile’s walk of a lake or recreactional park or a combination of the two.  It’s been that way for a while. And it has a timeless quality about it.

There will always be new kids, playing the old games.

But of course, history isn’t perfect, no matter what the textbooks say. Lake Calhoun – the one nearby, used to be on Dakota (as in Native American) land. It was called “Mde Maka Ska” then (which means White Earth Lake). The white colonialists (aka “settlers”) renamed it Medoza, which means “loon lake” in Dakota. And later still, it was renamed after former slavery advocate John C. Calhoun. A petition to change it was overturned. Which is crazy.

Part of a lake culture exhibit at the History Centre.

I come from a place where re-naming is random, but if anything goes too far. Why rename Ridge Road after some random cousin of some KZN politian? What’s offensive about “Ridge?”. Shouldn’t we be priortising those streets in Cape Town named after the Neo-Nazis?  Because if you did something obviously bad to other people, you shouldn’t get to keep your laurels. I don’t buy the argument that Calhoun didn’t know any better. Some things have always been wrong. It’s kinda obvious when you have to chain people up to get them to agree to what you want. And I’ll bet you anything that the same people who want to keep this ugly Calhoun name would never be okay with Bin Laden Lake – no matter how long it had been called that!

[4] However, the Park Board attorney wrote an opinion stating that only the state’s commissioner of natural resources can change the name of a lake, and also that state law prohibits the commissioner from changing a lake name that has existed for 40 years.[5][6]” – Wikipedia”]

"Because John C. Calhoun was an outspoken defender and advocate of slavery, the Minneapolis Park Board was presented in 2011 with a proposal to consider changing the name of the lake to honor Hubert H. Humphrey." - Wikipedia

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