I’m writing this not as an expert nor as one who has been fully formed. I am what is called in the new term, an anti-racist. This does not mean that I have it all figured out or that I am not growing in my awareness of my own complicity in this racism that plagues our country. I am writing what I understand at the moment.
The murder of George Floyd was a catalyst igniting a community in it’s call for an end to police brutality and reform in the way our nation polices it’s communities. The militarization of our law enforment has had a great effect on our African American community who have born the brunt of the trauma.
My neice Linnea (pictured above), has been an active participant in the many protests taking place in Minneapolis and St Paul, Minnesota. (Outside of the Clergy march–we were caring for her baby and did not march with her.) Although cloaked in “Minnesota Nice,” our state is known for being one of the places most plagued with racism. We have witnessed the murder of not only George Floyd but Philandro Castile. And there were others who were not filmed. We are also known for redlining which created neighborhoods for white families segregating Minnesota communities and denying home loans to eligible Black families. We have a great deal of work to do in our cities and our state–not to mention our nation.
During the protests while the news media covered the riots, (there were some), they failed to cover the ways the Minneapolis community came together to form neighborhood watch groups who protected their own communities. Churches and other groups formed pop-up food shelves and collected diapers and other necessary items to help the community.
I have watched my neice become aware of the many issues around race in our country. She has taken bold stands and participated in the neighborhood activities at the George Floyd Memorial site. Contrary to how this site is depicted in the news, the memorial site has become a place of healing and community.
I asked Linnea what this site has meant to people. What struck me as I listened to her story was how this memorial brought people together to grieve and process trauma around police violence. Posted around the George Floyd memorial are notes and letters telling the stories of loss. Nearly every family has, in some way, been touched by police violence. There are mothers who lost sons, siblings who lost brothers, uncles and parents due solely to police violence. Others shared stories about how they too have experienced unjust policing. The memorial site is a healing place where people are free to share their stories and heal their trauma.
Also at the memorial site many came to join in the grief and learn about their own complicity in racism. As white people, we can say, “this is too much,” and turn off the news or walk away. But those facing police violence and injustice every day cannot just walk away. Families come with strollers and children, learning, listening. Present often are speakers, leaders who are aware of the history and dynamics of racism. There is much to learn.
Some thoughts: I wonder if the redlining segregation has created a situation within which in our little white enclaves, we can ignore what is happening because we are not in proximity as neighbors. The white flight had long range impacts on schools and policing. Had we stayed and had we integrated, had we become better neighbors, would we be in this situation today?
When Jesus called us to love our neighbors, he called us to live as he did. Jesus put on human skin and moved into the neighborhood as Eugene Peterson translated John 1:14 He didn’t separate himself from others, he joined the human race. In this, Jesus spoke truth to power, spoke up for the ones experiencing injustice and ultimately paid with his life.
And I just have to say, that I am so proud of my neice. The protests have been very effective and she has changed my mind on the value of protest. The protestors were effective in getting the officers involved charged, effective in starting the conversation of what is known as “defunding the police” which is really about better ways to resolve various community problems through getting the right people involved. The people involved in the protest have formulated good and creative solutions for the betterment of their community. I have hope that this movement is bringing good things in the future.
Thanks to Carrie Totushek for the photo of Linnea and to Curtis Paul DeYoung for the picture from the Memorial site.