Minneapolis and George Floyd

What I’m reading today, June 8, 2020:

Letter from Minneapolis: Why the Rebellion Had to Begin Here/Su Hwang

First and foremost, we occupy stolen Dakota and Ojibwe land, and the largest mass execution in US history occurred in 1862 when 38 Dakota men were publicly hanged. Since then, government officials and shady developers have sanctioned the destruction of predominantly ethnic neighborhoods for white capitalistic agendas, reinforcing a passive-aggressive culture of exclusion and double standards. Fast forward to the present: Minnesota ranks second in the nation for worst median income and homeownership gaps between white and black residents, and is 45th out of 51 states when it comes to racial integration––making it one of the most segregated states in the entire country. The MPD continues to kill Black Minnesotans at an alarming rate and with total impunity because of unapologetic racists at the top like Bob Kroll, president of the police union, and Hennepin county attorney Mike Freeman. Don’t even get me started on incarceration rates for people of color in Minnesota. And as of last year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were at least twelve known hate groups operating within state lines. 

Let’s be very clear: Minneapolis and St. Paul, so-called bastions of white liberalism, are under attack. We are in the crosshairs of boogaloos and other rogue white nationalist maniacs looking to fan hate and fear, but what they don’t realize is that legions of lovers and fighters have been laying the groundwork toward resistance and true equity for generations. From the outside looking in, the depth and breadth of these sweeping changes may seem radical in their swiftness, but they are the result of decades of community-based activism by BIPOC individuals, collectives, and organizations working tirelessly to dismantle white supremacy in Minnesota for a very long, long, long time. Also, youth movements including nonprofit media collectives like Unicorn Riot have been instrumental in disseminating the truth. So, as much as we ache for the destruction of cultural landmarks and essential businesses in our backyards––the traumatic toll yet to be fully processed––groups of visionary artists, civil servants, activists, healers, and builders are already on the scene. They’ve been here all along.

Notes on George Floyd Protests in Minneapolis/Danez Smith

Already, the people out of whom capitalism would make an unmemorable meal are flocking to defend the brands. These people find their rage in the disruption of their comfort. “Won’t someone please think of the Arby’s?” seems like a very weird place to put your concern. What America are you mourning? Target wasn’t in the fields, cotton-bloodied hands. Walmart never hung from a tree.

Decades of tensions between Minneapolis police and Black communities have led to this moment/Kandace Montgomery and Miski Noor

Racism in the Minneapolis Police Department is far from hidden. A 2007 racial discrimination lawsuit brought by Black police officers (including current Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, before he became the branch’s leader) stated that the head of the police union openly wore a white power patch on his motorcycle jacket.

The lawsuit was one of many attempts aimed at curtailing racial discrimination against Black cops and, presumably, angling for a better relationship with the Black community. Other changes have included the appointment of Janee Harteau, an openly gay woman, as police chief in 2012 and a review from President Obama’s Department of Justice. There was also the settlement that led to trainings to prevent police from holding detained people in prone positions — the very tactic that Derek Chauvin used that appears to have killed George Floyd. In 2018, under pressure from community groups Black Visions and Reclaim the Block, Minneapolis City Council shifted $1.1 million from MPD and reallocated it toward community-based public safety initiatives.

But even with all the work that has gone into fighting to end the culture of racism in the MPD, police are still killing Black people — and the city has reinvested in their service. In December of 2019, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and our city’s leadership used our tax dollars to add $8.2 million to the police department’s budget, making it a total of $193 million pulled from our pockets for 2020. 

Our city’s choice to invest in a police department drenched in racism instead of the well-being of Black communities has been a death sentence for our family members, friends, and neighbors. We are left to grapple with where to go from here. How do we find safety in our city and in our homes? How do we find a future for our children? We’ve tried reform. Now we need a radical shift.

an economy of care instead of punishment

However, removing public resources and power from the MPD is only one side of the equation. As Patrisse Cullors, Black Lives Matter Global Network co-founder and artist, said, “We must defund law enforcement and reimagine a world that relies on an economy of care versus an economy of punishment.”