The U.S. Justice Department today announced a sweeping probe of the Minneapolis Police Department, investigating its practices, culture, and use of force to see if there is a pattern of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.
Sounds impressive, but we’ve heard this reform story before, nationally and locally. Problems persist.
Hennepin County jurors today found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd, along with two lesser counts.
It was the first time in state history that a white police officer was held accountable for killing a Black man, according the Minnesota ACLU.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors stressed to the jury that Chauvin’s trial was a pro-police prosecution, not an anti-police prosecution. They knew that some jurors had a favorable opinion of police and didn’t want to lose any a vote by suggesting this was an indictment of the police in general.
Yet this moment calls for an overhaul of our system of public safety. The push will come from many organizations and from across the city, including those people currently occupying George Floyd Square.
White bodies have demanded obedience, submission, and respect from black bodies since this nation was founded, even before.
Things have improved, slowly, but white supremacy is still alive, even thriving. In policing, it can show up as intimidation, excessive force, and death for Black bodies.
It is easy for those of us who are white (including this author) to “other” the police, as if we haven’t benefited from their policing and other forms oppression that have led to gross racial inequalities in our communities. We are part of that same social conditioning into white supremacy.
The family of Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old unarmed black man who was shot and killed by police in Brooklyn Center last night, has called for a peaceful celebration of life tonight at 6:00 p.m. at 63rd Avenue North and Kathrene Drive, the site of the shooting. LED candles have been requested. (Previous version said 7 p.m. but because of potential curfew it was moved up an hour.)
At a news conference today, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said the officer “apparently meant to fire a Taser but instead made an ‘accidental discharge’ from her gun,” the Washington Post reported.
As the Derek Chauvin trial begins its third week, as Maryland’s legislature passes a law to address police abuses, the latest example of excessive force by police against a person of color has emerged in a lawsuit filed against cops in Windsor, Va.
On Dec. 5, police officers pulled over U.S. Army officer Caron Nazario, drawing their guns and shouting at him to get out of his car, ABC News reported.
Nazario, who is black and Latino, tells them he’s afraid to get out of his car.
I have been deeply moved listening to the Derek Chauvin trial, hearing eye witnesses describe their experiences of watching George Floyd’s murder and trying desperately to intervene. Perhaps you could feel yourself transported to the intersection, too.
I watch in awe as the people on the sidewalk, young and old, express their outrage, doing everything they could to plead, cajole, and shame the officers to save Floyd’s life.
Then I hear them in court, distraught that they didn’t do more. It’s heartbreaking, especially given the incredible courage they showed.
And somewhere in that reflection, it strikes me that I am a witness everyday. There’s racism all around me. And like those who stood on the sidewalk, I have the opportunity to act.
Here’s the pattern: Another tragic injustice happens against a black or brown body. People take to the streets. Law enforcement cracks down. Civic leaders call for “racial healing.”
When I read “racial healing,” I am reminded of the powerful way Christine McCleave defined it in her recent blog Healing in these Traumatic Times. McCleave is an enrolled citizen of Turtle Mountain Ojibwe Nation, CEO for the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, and a member of the city of Minneapolis’ recently formed Truth and Reconciliation Workgroup.
Healing requires “that we acknowledge the harm, the injustices, and what those who have benefited from the injustice have gained,” she writes. But healing also requires “that we transform the systems of inequity and oppression into systems of equity and liberation AND abide by the promise to do no further harm.“
The City of Minneapolis has pledged more than $10.5 million to support “racial healing” in the 38th & Chicago area, also known as George Floyd Square.
It doesn’t appear city leaders have a clear understanding of what “racial healing” means.
Today, the court proceedings included several long recess periods. During those down times, the livestream focused on the image of the Minnesota State Seal in the courtroom.
It seemed like a poor choice.
The backdrop of Chauvin’s trial is racial injustice: The murder of George Floyd, another in a string of black man killed by police. The State Seal is a symbol of racial injustice, too. It shows a Native American man on horseback riding west, displaced from his ancestral lands by newly arriving white settlers. To be blunt, it’s an image of Manifest Destiny and white supremacy which state leaders have failed to change.
They should pick a different image to feature during recess.