Billy Minder / by Michael Falco

Who is Billy Minder?

Billy Minder was born in a rural farming community in Northeast South Dakota, where his dad was a farmer. In high school, the family moved to a larger town, Huron, South Dakota, after selling the farm. Billy attended a small Christian high school with a senior class of thirteen people. After graduation he attended bible college in Kansas City, Missouri. After five years Billy graduated and moved to back to Huron where he accepted a position as an associate pastor where he served for seven years. He married a woman he met at bible college and they moved to Wyoming, where Billy was a pastor at Cheyenne Hills and later Meadowbrooke Church. They two have children together, but recently divorced after 27 years of marriage. Billy now works in college admissions after leaving his church because of the divorce and lives outside of Fort Collins, CO.  He is white with western European ancestry, politically conservative, evangelical Christian, straight, enjoys cars and motorcycles. He was referred by friends to the Facing Whiteness project. 

Excerpt from interview with Billy Minder by Samuel Lutzker, 2018

Minder: [02:41:06] Have you seen that video on Facebook where there’s a bunch of young people, you know, teens or twenty-somethings, lined up on a start line in a grass park?

Q: Yes.

Minder: [02:41:18] And they’re going to run a race, and they go, “Wait!” And there’s black, and white, and there’s different ethnic groups. And they go, “Wait, before we start, if you grew up with both your parents in the home, take two steps forward. “ And then they started asking these series of questions. Have you seen that video?

Q: Yes. I’ve seen it, yes.

Minder: [02:41:39] So, a lot of the white kids keep getting a step forward, and step forward, and step forward. So, they’re hardly anywhere away from the finish line, and a lot of it, like the inner-city black kid that never knew his dad, and grew up on welfare, and had seen somebody stabbed, you know, all those questions, they’re still on the starting line. And that video is trying to make the point of white privilege, I think.

Q: Yes, I would say it is. Like go for it, yes.

Minder: [02:42:14] But then, okay. So, I didn’t grow up in a high-crime neighborhood. I’ve never seen somebody shot, stabbed. I’ve never had to worry about being—gang violence. I’ve never had to worry about getting into gang or getting beat up. I’ve never had to, you know, my folks—I have all this stuff. Where was I going to go with that? What am I supposed to do with that? Am I supposed to get rid of my stuff, and live out of my pickup because I’m white to make it more fair for a black person? I don’t know what to do with all that. Except I know I’m supposed to feel bad that I’m white because I get beat over the head with it by a politically correct culture.

Q: Are you though? Are you supposed to feel bad that you’re white?

Minder: [02:43:06] That’s what I feel like I’m supposed to feel. And I read my student’s posts and these stories about what slave owners did, and about black kids getting shot by cops, and all that kind of stuff, and it’s white people doing this. “You white people, you white people,” and it’s—I feel like I’m supposed to feel—I’m supposed to beat myself up. So I—

Q: Do you think that’s productive though? What do you think the productive thing to do is?

Minder: [02:43:38] For our culture you mean? For our society?

Q: When these instances come up, and you react by—you know? I’m just talking about your reaction to it. Because I think that privilege—I think when people—I mean how do you feel? If I were to say you have white privilege, how does that make you feel?

Minder: [02:44:01] It makes me wonder what that really is honestly.

Q: Makes you wonder what it is?

Minder: [02:44:04] What it really is. And how am I privileged because I’m white? What do I have just because I’m white?

Q: Do you feel defensive at all?

Minder: [02:44:12] Yes, a little bit.

Q: I mean—

Minder: [02:44:14] That’s what I mean by beaten over the head. I feel defensive about it, yes.

Q: Why do you think you feel defensive about it?

Minder: [02:44:22] Because I feel like I’m being told, “You’re where you’re at just because you’re white. You’ve got what you’ve got just because you’re white.” I’m like, Really? Really?

Q: Interesting. Yes, I don’t know because when I hear, but then again I’m also—

Minder: [02:44:43] You’re from such a different culture than I am, I think, in a lot of ways, right?


Q: Yes. Because I feel like in some ways, I can relate to that sense of guilt, and not really knowing what to do with it, and things like that. I think part of it is just maybe acknowledging that. Again, I would never say it’s the full story. I don’t think it’s the full story. I think people who read into things, anything is the full story, it becomes problematic. But it’s definitely part of the story. I think in the history of America, it’s a pretty big part of the story. So, I’m not going to put a percentage on that. But like it’s a pretty big part of the story that like this country was built with slavery, and that we’re still dealing with the ramifications of that. Anyone who comes into the society is—you’re living in that history. You can’t divorce yourself from that history. So, what are you going to do, you know?

Minder: [02:49:46] Yes.

Q: And I don’t really know if I have an answer for you. I mean—you know?

Minder: [02:49:50] You know, part of me where I grew up, I grew up in the northern state where there was no slavery. There’s no history of it. There’s not many black people. There’s none essentially. So, I’ve never seen it or experienced it, and black people didn’t build any of the buildings where I grew up. You know what I mean?

Q: Yes.

Minder: [02:50:09] So when I hear that, I understand and believe what you’re saying, but it’s all—it happened over there.

Q: It happened over there. Interesting.

Minder: [02:50:16] I didn’t live in it. I didn’t live and see race riots. I didn’t live in drugs, by ghettos, and segregated bus seating, and all that stuff. So, it’s just anecdotal to me because of where I grew up, I think. I mean, I think, I’m thinking that that’s why I think that way. But at the same time, I fully accept the fact of what you’re saying is a reality.

Q: Yes. Which is good to accept that other people’s experiences without having experienced something that’s similar because—

Minder: [02:50:51] I might not be able to identify with it, but I can accept it. Okay.

Q: Yes. You know, I think that this conversation about race is often something that’s seen in black-and-white terms in America. What about Native Americans, though, in your area, you know their history and stuff? And I know they may not—

Minder: [02:51:10] It’s awful. It’s awful.

Q: I mean they may not have built the towns, but, like, that land was a land that they, at some point, were probably on.

Minder: [02:51:17] Oh, sure. And this is stuff, I guess, I was taught or whatever, but it was a clash of cultures. It was a war of cultures. The hard, sad realities of that is white people won. I think a lot of natives where I grew up, Native Americans, they were nomadic cultures. They didn’t have a concept of owning the land, land ownership, and so that’s a very European concept. So, the Europeans are coming in there, and they’re buying land from the Indian. They think they’re buying land from the Indians, and they Indians don’t understand. “No, we’re going to be on this, and you can’t come anymore because we own this now,” that was—you know, that was a clash of the cultures and concepts. That was very real.

But the white people had the numbers and the technology to take what they wanted, as wrong as that was. And then their solution, as brutal as it was, was to cordon off Native Americans on these littler reservations that usually is the worst land in the area. Land not good for anything, could not support their nomadic lifestyle. It’s a sad chapter in American history.

Like I said, a couple of hours ago, to take a group of people and not just section them off in this little piece of land. But then destroy their incentive to do anything by providing housing and everything for them, you know?

Q: Yes.

Minder: [02:53:08] So, it’s too bad, I guess, that the government didn’t do with Native Americans how they did with black people. How come they didn’t black people and put them on reservations, and do the same thing they did with Native Americans? I think it’s accurate to say African Americans are more mainstream than to society than the Native Americans are in South Dakota [unclear]. So, the government took two different approaches, and I think the average black person is probably better off than the average Native American in South Dakota is. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not, but that would be my guess based on all the black people that I know in Cheyenne, and here, and Kansas City versus what I saw at the reservations in South Dakota.

Q: I mean, do you think what happened to the Native Americans in the area that you’ve inherited as your history in South Dakota, is that racism, too?

Minder: [02:54:25] Explain the question.

Q: Before you were saying, you know, “race, that whole stuff, it’s like that’s over there. That’s like the South.”

Minder: [02:54:33] What you were describing is over there.

Q: Yes, the South, and even the east coast, and stuff. But like, “South Dakota, we didn’t have many black people, if any, at that time so that wasn’t a part of my history. Like I’ve inherited that white privilege or whatever from that.”

Minder: [02:54:46] But I’ve got this with the Native Americans, yes. I hadn’t thought of it that way. It looks different in South Dakota than it does in—

Q: Yes, of course, it looks different.

Minder: [02:54:55] It looks different because things develop differently, and the government handled things differently.

Q: Are there similarities, though?

Minder: [02:55:03] Yes, I suppose there are. Yes, I suppose there are. Yes. I guess there are similarities in the sense that the white people were the ones in control, and they made the rules, and called the shots. And the other ethnic groups like the Native Americans and the black people didn’t have any say in it as our history developed and you know?

Q: Yes. So do you think like a special scholarship for Native Americans would make sense?

Minder: [02:55:57] Oh, there are. There are all kinds of stuff like that.

Q: Did they—

Minder: [02:55:59] And there’s colleges on the reservation.

Q: Do they bother you or—?

Minder: [02:56:03] No. I guess they don’t. I never thought about it. The reservations do have colleges and stuff, and I don’t know how academically strenuous they are or—interesting.

Interview Transcript