The last Tuesday of May, I woke up and saw that a black man had been killed by police the night before in Minneapolis. I saw the photo and was stunned. This isn’t the first time this has happened in my state but I knew this time would be different. This time, there was no way anyone could argue that we should hear both sides of the story.
I don’t know if I should write this post. I don’t know if this me centering myself in this narrative. That’s not my intent. My intent is simply this: George Floyd was murdered in a city that I love and call home. There have been peaceful protests and there have been riots in the city that I love and call home. And this year it was so much more explosive than it has been in the past. It led to a moment that made me think, “And where have I heard this before? From the Black community. Oh.”
There are a few societal “issues”, for lack of a better word, that have had my attention for years, but I haven’t discussed them here. And I think, moving forward, that’s going to change. I’ll still talk about everything that I’ve talked about before, but from time-to-time, we’ll also talk about things like racism in America and issues with the prison system. As we follow our dreams, etc. I would hope that a better life for all is part of that.
And in order to see changes in our world, we need to have conversations and act on those conversations. I’m not going to tell you what to do, but I want to be able to share what I’m learning.
Let’s go back to May. Protests started right away, but as the week went on, the city started to burn. That week became a blur of watching people that I follow on Instagram peacefully protesting followed by staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning watching reports of fires and destruction in the city. After I finally fell asleep, I’d wake up and read about the damage that actually occurred that night.
I have friends who live in the area of the riots who shared their experiences throughout it on Facebook. A good friend and I were texting throughout the day and over the weekend, when people were told to spray their houses down with water and to look for possible incendiary kits left behind in their neighborhoods, her family left for the weekend. A few people on Instagram shared their concerns and, eventually, evacuated their homes for the duration. One night, a relative of mine was prepared to evacuate if needed.
In the midst of watching the peaceful protests (that weren’t reported) and hearing about the damage, I’d also run across people on Instagram who were living life. And at one point I thought: Why aren’t they talking about what’s happening? A man was killed. My city is in flames.
Why aren’t they talking about what’s happening?
Where have I heard that before? From the Black community.
The distress of watching my city burn wasn’t distress of losing buildings or businesses. It was distress for the people behind those buildings and businesses. It was distress for the people who were killed in the midst of the riots.
The beautiful thing about Minneapolis is that we have a community that comes together and that was evident throughout all of this. There were people who were protesting the death of George Floyd. There were people who were organizing food drives and collecting other items that those who found themselves in a food desert after the stores around them were burned down and looted might need. People have donated funds for the business owners whose businesses were destroyed so that they can rebuild.
But while businesses and buildings can (and hopefully will be) replaced, people can’t. And that thought–Why aren’t people talking about what’s happening?–hit me like a ton of bricks. Because that’s what the Black community has been asking us.
And this time, eventually, the nation took notice. The world took notice.
For that, I’m thankful. Not that people took note of what’s happening in Minneapolis, but that people are now talking about how to break down racial injustice in America and in other countries around the world. This is the first step toward creating change. This is the first step toward creating a world where people aren’t killed for the color of their skin.
(Also, I just want to state that there is so much that went down that week that hasn’t been talked about, like the very high likelihood people were coming to Minneapolis for the riots. Again, there was a difference between the protests and the destruction.)
So here’s what I’m doing in the wake of all that happened at the end of May and in June:
- I am continuing to have hard conversations. I’ve had more and it turns out, people are willing to discuss.
- I’m dusting off the list of books that I lost track of and am continuing to learn.
- I’m more intentional about supporting black-owned businesses.
- I’m intentionally creating a reading list for my nephew’s English class next school year (he’s homeschooled) to include diverse voices, including books by Black authors.
- I want to share what I’m learning here and be able to have conversations with you.
And if you haven’t already, I encourage you to explore the different ways you can work toward a more just nation for all people. Some of us have the luxury of being able to check out of the conversation whenever we want to, but that doesn’t mean we should. This isn’t a conversation we should only have when someone is killed. This is a conversation we should be engaged with all the time.