Inequality continues to be a major problem in our metro, even as we continue to gain accolades for the most “literate,” the most “bike friendly” city, et cetera. With all of this good stuff, why can we not share our prosperity a little more. Black Americans continue to suffer lower economic opportunities while at the same time being subject to disproportionate violence from the police, leading to great injustices, most recently in Baltimore with the murder of Freddie Gray but many others before, including in the Twin Cities.
So, last week, I walked down the Gold Medal Park to lend my presence, and my voice, to the rally against racism and police violence, MN Rise Up and Shut it Down, joining around two thousand people of all backgrounds and races to rally support for Baltimore and to demand response to institutional racism in police departments and the end of vague “spitting” and “lurking” laws used against people of color. This is definitely a part of the experience of living in the Twin Cities, Minnesota has always had strong activist traditions and people passionate about trying to make change in the community. Hosted by the tireless and committed organizers of Black Lives Matter, this was a breathtaking and affecting thing to witness.
News helicopters buzzed overhead as the crowd of people from all races, backgrounds, and ages strolled down Washington Avenue after leaving the grassy hill of Gold Medal Park, prompting people in nearby apartments to watch and wave. Things went smoothly, with the Minneapolis police appearing to aid in the proceedings, observing. It was pretty awe inspiring listening to the cries and cheers of the crowd letting its values be known. As was expressed to the crowd, we were all normal Minnesotans, letting our voices be heard, putting our support behind the protests in Baltimore and elsewhere in the country. It was exhilarating being there, being in the midst of the crowd chanting the chants of “no justice, no peace,” among others, especially as a person unused to expressing themselves in public.
I struggled with writing this entry, not wanting to simply trumpet my “progressiveness,” as a way to assuage my white guilt and show how “good” I am compared to all those other racists, when the reality is I am as much ingrained into racist thinking and white privilege as any other white person. I am lazy, I am complacent. I can’t really consider myself a revolutionary or an activist, since I do not devote much of my time into rallying for change, so I thought it important to take some time out of a Wednesday to walk with the activists of Black Lives Matter.
One of my major political “values,” I’d come into since childhood has been a devotion to pacifism and nonviolence, though, as I got older, it became clear that “nonviolence” was not simply avoiding conflict, and avoiding physically hurting people. The very system we live in, and often do not question, is oftentimes violent, at least in that it harms people. As was expressed by the activists at black lives matter, white silence is itself violence. Of course, it’s easy for me to step into this rally and then go back to my daily life; not so for so many people of color in our white supremacist nation.
Personally, I recall one time a few years ago when a group of friends and I had just finished eating at a local sushi restaurant and piled into my sister’s old Honda SUV to head to the next place. She had just pulled onto the street when, out of nowhere, a squad car blared its lights and forced into the parking lot of a nearby convenience store, after which several officers leaped out, holding guns. Sidearms drawn, they surrounded the car, shouting for us to all keep our hands in sight and pulled out one of my friends from the back seat. We were all just shocked and had no real change to react. Turned out my friend in the back seat was the spitting image of some suspect. Lucky for us, he was too tall to be the guy they were looking for, and we were set on our way. Pretty scary. Could things have been different had any of us been black? This makes you think about it.
This, of course, is a minor incident that offers barely a taste of what people of color experience daily, but it was eye opening. It definitely was an honor to walk with this movement and will do so again. I’m interested in expanding my participation and this was a good start.Photos courtesy of Akulas Psyhos,