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'I Really Regret Moving Here': How Residents Of 98% White Buffalo, Minnesota Talk About Race

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Among the majority of peaceful protesters in the days following George Floyd's death was Corey Moore from Buffalo.

Moore, on the morning of June 1, was leading a discussion about race and community at East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue -- the site of Floyd's killing. He and about two dozen protesters sat in the intersection overnight, defying curfew uninterrupted.

READ MORE: The 'Minnesota Paradox': Why The State Has One Of The Largest Racial Disparities

"We need to knock on our neighbor's door and talk to each other, cry with each other and start healing," Moore said.

Three weeks later, at his home in Buffalo, he led a similar conversation. Alongside Moore sat Nick O'Rourke, Josie Kolasa and Sarah Long. All three grew up in Buffalo, and are among the 98% of the city's population of White Americans.

"I realized one day that I'm unintentionally like a White nationalist," O'Rourke said. "I support ideas that oppress other people."

Fewer than 100 people total -- 0.06% of Buffalo's population -- are Black. Three live in Moore's house.

"The saddest thing that my kids have ever said to me since living here was like when [the unrest] started, all the friends they thought they had weren't friends, and the friends that they have as friends, they don't know who to trust," Moore said.

READ MORE: Systemic Racism: The Unequal Playing Field That Continues To Plague America

Moore, a retired Army veteran, has had his trust tested most recently online, with confederate flags and racist slurs shared in community pages. That's what got O'Rourke to start a Facebook group of anti-racist voices in Wright County, which is how this group got together.

Corey Moore
Corey Moore (credit: CBS)

"We've been ignoring it forever," O'Rourke said. "That's why we're here. That's why we're in the spot we're in. You can't ignore it anymore."

Kolasa expanded those thoughts.

"I think it does helps to say, 'Hey I know you, and I went to school with your daughter, and your granddaughter goes to school with my son, and what you're saying isn't OK,'" Kolasa said.

Buffalo is among the growing list of small cities and suburbs across America that, in the past month, held its first ever Black Lives Matter rally. And in the past month, since bringing that conversation from 38th and Chicago home, Moore sees this as one step of many.

"If you're a leader in this community and you clearly see that people are hurting, why aren't you addressing this? Why aren't you stepping up?" Moore said. "And in all honesty, I really regret moving here, you know. But I don't want to pack up and run."

READ MORE: 'We Have To Stop Segregating Ourselves': Justice Alan Page Reflects On Racism In Minnesota

Neighbor Sarah Long responded with empathy.

"I couldn't imagine being Corey. He's kind of a big guy, he probably makes people feel intimidated because of the color of his skin," Long said. "And I think that's really heartbreaking, and I 100% would understand why he wouldn't want to be here anymore."

Buffalo Mayor Teri Lachermeier told WCCO that she, alongside Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer, want to build stronger relationships in the community.

"The nationwide conversation about how we can all do better includes every community. Here in Buffalo, we want all of our residents to feel safe, included and valued, and I personally am always interested in hearing ideas from our residents about how I can be a leader for positive change," Lachermeier said. "Ours is a beautiful and proud community where we aim to be inclusive and welcoming to all. I look forward to the continuing dialogue about ways I can help."

Sheriff Deringer met with Moore, Long, O'Rourke and Kolasa privately to get that conversation started.

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