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Whenever I leave the borders of Minnesota or the United States, I claim to be from Minneapolis.
Technically it’s not true. I didn’t grow up there. I’ve never resided within the city limits. I write this from my home in the suburbs.
Still, I call Minneapolis home.
As a kid growing up on the farm more than two hours from the city, all of my favorite sports teams were from Minneapolis. As an adult working, volunteering or socializing in or near the city, it’s allowed me to meet and connect with countless individuals from all sorts of backgrounds and upbringings. My worldview continues to shift and improve because of Minneapolis.
In a matter of days my city has physically transformed and crumbled in a way I could not have envisioned. It is the new epicenter of outrage and injustice of an egotistical and entitled nation that pats itself on the back for how great it is while ignoring the many ways it is and has been awful.
The past two nights have been a perfect example. And it appears that I am part of the problem.
I was horrified watching the live video of the chaos on Wednesday night. By Thursday night, I had come to expect it. Nothing surprised me. This is our current reality. And we are on the brink of it becoming our new norm throughout the country.
Remember when mass murder and school shootings were uncommon? I barely can. It’s normal. We’ve done nothing to change the pattern. It will continue. And those are isolated incidents. Rarely will someone be personally impacted by that repeatedly. It’s replaced after a few days in the news cycle, and those of us on the outside carry on with our “busy” lives.
Remember when systemic racism was uncommon? NO. This country was built on it. Of course I can recall earlier in my life when I didn’t understand it or think it was a big problem. But it’s always existed. It’s just that now with the prevalence of video recording we all can witness specific incidents of racism unfolding before our eyes.
Emotions are powerful.
The anger that we are witnessing with the protests has always been there. It’s been building for years and generations especially by the individuals continually impacted and living with fear that something bad will happen again and no one with power seems to care enough to make a change.
Anger is justified. Protesting is justified. I don’t think I can go as far as saying that rioting and looting are justified. But I understand why it escalates to that. Maybe that’s what it takes to finally be heard.
There’s a segment of the population of this country that feels like they are left behind, discarded, mistreated, and abused. The system is not designed for them. It is designed to keep them down. And nothing exemplifies this system more than a 10-minute video with a black man pinned face-down in police custody, gasping and screaming for help, being denied his basic human rights, and being ignored by the people with the power and authority to help him. Ignored until minutes after he’s taken his last breath. Horrific.
If the rest of us that are more privileged and have less in our life to be angry about, continue to stand by and do nothing, then we remain part of the problem.
And I admit I’m part of the problem. I am privileged. I rarely feel anger.
I’m writing this because I haven’t done enough. This certainly isn’t enough. But maybe you haven’t yet educated yourself on systemic racism. It wasn’t taught to me in high school. I’ve learned about it by having conversations with people that experience it, listening to people that have studied it and can explain it, and occasionally witnessing it.
What I fear happens, and what I don’t want you to do, is to be initially upset by the death of George Floyd, but then be even more upset with the rioting and allow those events to justify your opinion on how and why certain people are allowed to be treated poorly.
Keep this in mind. People are angry in this country for many reasons. There is plenty of evidence to indicate that people involved in and instigating some of the rioting and looting are not there for the George Floyd protest. They are motivated by something else that we might not understand yet. But they want to fuck shit up, and they have found this to be a perfect opportunity.
When I said we are on the brink of this becoming the new norm in our country, I believe it. This country is getting more and more divisive. There are many segments of the population that are fed up. And what’s been happening in my city could very well continue here for a while or spread to areas that aren’t yet prepared to stop it. And the next time an event takes place that consolidates so much anger, it could happen again. And if the people that are coming to fuck shit up get away with it, there’s no reason to think their movement won’t grow larger and continue to instigate anywhere in the country where they see an opportunity.
It is what we need most right now. We need to be willing to have these conversations. And most importantly we need to listen to people that are angry and understand them better than ever before. And we need to allow ourselves to change our minds. Maybe our current opinion isn’t the best one.
Imagine what would have been avoided if any one of those four police officers would have allowed the desperate cries of George Floyd to impact their actions. To listen to that man in that moment and adjust their way of thinking or their behavior because of what they hear. To have a conversation with and have concern for someone that had somehow become an enemy.
We are not enemies. We can all get along and come to an understanding. We don’t have to agree but we can feel like we are heard.
I saw something clearly positive at 3 AM today while watching a live internet video from Minneapolis. The video appeared to be outside a police precinct with as many as 50 officers guarding the front entrance. There were a handful of protesters across the street. One of the protesters walked to the middle of the street to have a conversation with one of the cops. A few other protesters gathered. After a couple minutes the officer went back to chat with the other officers and they abandoned their posts. A few officers stayed outside and continued to have peaceful conversations with the protesters. This was the first sign of progress I had witnessed.
It needs to become the norm for all of us. We need to keep having conversations and we need to keep learning from others.
(The video below is what I witnessed at 3 AM.)