George Floyd Memorial, Minneapolis
This month I had originally intended to blog on the injustice of UK landowners using Covid19 as a ruse to illegally block public footpaths during lockdown when country walks are one of the few pleasures remaining to many people. However, recent events have completely blown that essay out of the water. In my hometown of Minneapolis, police officer Derek Chauvin suffocated beneath his knee George Floyd, an unarmed black man accused of a minor offense, while three other Minneapolis police officers stood by and did nothing. Outrage for this brutal and senseless killing literally ignited protests across the Twin Cities and across the globe. Thus, it would seem a travesty not to devote my monthly blog to George Floyd and the protesters around the world who are calling for an end to systemic police brutality against black communities.
Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd (the officer stands accused of third degree murder) has triggered the strongest civil unrest the Twin Cities have ever seen. Family homes and small businesses, many of them minority-owned, were torched. Whole neighborhoods have been devastated and left “food deserts,” with no viable local grocery stores left standing. The news footage made my beloved Minneapolis look like a war zone. I am deeply worried about the safety and welfare of my family and friends back home.
The bitter irony is that I grew up believing that Minnesota was such a liberal–even progressive–place that such a tragedy could never happen here. That we were too enlightened, too “Minnesota nice,” to ever tolerate a racist police force capable of such crimes. I grew up believing that Rodney King style incidents only happened in big bad cities like Los Angeles or New York, or the Deep South. Not here and not on our watch. My childhood days of “Minnesota nice” expired a long time ago.
While the Twin Cities remain very liberal, Minnesota is now a swing state with many vocal Trump supporters, especially in rural areas. One of the most ardent Trump supporters of all is Bob Kroll, head of the Minneapolis police union, who wields more power than the police chief, Medaria Arrandando. Arrandando, an African American, has accused Kroll of wearing a motorcycle jacket with a white power badge on it. Kroll is openly hostile to Black Lives Matter, calling it a “terrorist organization.” Even after the horrific video of Chauvin suffocating Floyd with his knee, Kroll defended his officers and was outraged when they were fired and when Chauvin was charged with third degree murder and manslaughter. Kroll’s critics accuse him of being a staunch supporter of systemic racism in the police force.
The statistics are shocking. Although just 20% of Minneapolis’s population is African American, black people accounted for 60% of the victims of police shootings between 2009 and 2019. Just 1% of formal complaints against Minneapolis police officers since 2012 have resulted in disciplinary action.
This is a wake up call for us all, a time when it’s imperative to listen to those who have been silenced and gas-lighted. Black lives matter and black voices must be heard and heeded.
If we’re serious about serving peace, justice, and equality, we can’t just be passive bystanders. It’s not enough to say we’re not racist–we must be actively anti-racist. As Manny Tejeda-Moreno writes, “There is nothing that racism does not taint.”
In her recent essay, Alejandra Oliva offers a gorgeous meditation on Mary’s Magnificat and Mary as mother and liberator of the oppressed. Oliva writes:
Make Mary’s song your own—consider what it looks like to actively decry injustice, to rejoice in the toppling of power structures, to consider the ways in which you yourself are implicated in them and what giving away your own power might look like. Listen to the contemporary magnificats rising around us—the words and voices of those most directly affected by the bodily violence of the police and the more insidious violence of structural, medical, social, and class racism.
Below are some resources that will hopefully inspire us to learn how we can serve the cause of justice and equality in our own communities and in the global community.
- Anti-racist reading list.
- Watch George Floyd’s memorial service.
- Kidlit Rally for Black Lives on the Brown Bookshelf.
- J. Drew Lanham’s essay, “Birding While Black.”
- Black led arts organizations in the Twin Cities.
- Stream the excellent film, The Hate U Give.
- Read anything by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Luisah Teish, etc. etc.
May we all live in peace and equality. May the highest justice be served.
Mary Sharratt is on a mission to write women back into history. Her most recent novel Ecstasy is about the composer Alma Schindler Mahler. If you enjoyed this article, sign up for Mary’s newsletter or visit her website.