A non-disclaimer: If you are the kind of person who doesn't think discussion of racism and policing belongs in a newsletter about content and technology, you should probably unsubscribe. This is a newsletter about working practically in the world we live in, using the tools we have in front of us, to reimagine better futures.
It's essential to discuss racist violence in our workplaces, our technology, our storytelling and media systems, and especially our neighborhoods. If you ignore discussions of racism then, well, you're literally ignorant! Kindly do some self-searching and return when you've grown.
For the rest of you, thanks for paying attention. Please continue working for change.
George Floyd died at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department a year ago this past Tuesday. The MPD lied about the murder until Darnella Frazier's phone video circulated, capturing the horrific truth.
Minneapolis citizens responded with protests, which the MPD then escalated into violence.
Here's what I wrote last year about racism and fear in the Minnesota workplace, hours before protestors set fire to the Minneapolis Third Precinct and adjacent businesses a few miles from my apartment, the day before buildings in my neighborhood were also set on fire.
More transpired since the burning of the 3rd, of course, including:
- my neighbors wailing in pain following the murder, the protests, the violence, the hopelessness
- block groups frantically organizing to protect our bodies and our homes because no one trusted the MPD to protect us from white supremacist vigilantes who sped through neighborhoods in unmarked cars
- the city council's pledge to dismantle the police department
- the unelected charter commission's defanging of the city council
- the carpetbagging toilet brush of a mayor failing to lead in every instance
- the MPD surveillance choppers retraumatizing and circling our neighborhoods incessantly with absolutely no results or real accountability
- the commitment of the Agape movement to keeping George Floyd Square safe, with very few resources
- the MPD's murder of Dolal Idd in December
- the terrifying occupation of Operation Safety Net in our neighborhoods after another local police department killed Daunte Wright
- continued shitty behavior from the MPD
- Chauvin's conviction and the peace and relief that followed
- the ongoing drama of the Minneapolis city council and the toilet brush mayor, which, for the record, is way more engaging and baffling than dopey tech/media/internet discourse
- mass media's continued gawking at the well-researched, data-backed police defunding/abolition movement
- the success of the Yes4Minneapolis petition, which successfully gathered enough signatures to (hopefully) appear on the ballot in November, allowing the city to vote on whether we should replace the corrupt, violent MPD that eats taxpayer dollars with a functional department for public safety that actually keeps people safe.
I ask you to remember that in every retelling of George Floyd's murder and its aftermath, much is removed from the narrative. The story I see and know of my city in no way matches the narratives I see in national mass media -- particularly the narratives that conclude the people of my city are violent and intent on destruction. It has been a violent, painful, anxious and frustrating year, but we continue to demand change and accountability.
I love Minneapolis because we are hopeful. We are active. On Tuesday organizers held a celebration of George Floyd's life where he was killed but will not be forgotten. That our community continues celebrating in spite of the pain, the challenges, the continued efforts to tamp it all down and return to the status quo: we insist that you see joy.
I don't want to polyanna the horror of the past year. I just want to center it in reality: Minneapolis is actively working toward change. The narrative is not concluded, and it won't be for some time.
If after this year, you still believe that policing keeps you safe, I ask you to police your own thoughts, the stories you tell yourself, and your fears before you continue imposing violence on communities of color.
Because ultimately Minneapolis* supports and celebrates a vast diversity of cultural and arts institutions, creative and independent thinkers, mutual aid movements, visionaries of justice, peace movements, and activism far beyond the violence of the MPD and the racism of folks who think city life should be a pristine shopping district and an empty green lawn. Change will be on the ballot, and the people of Minneapolis will continue to fight for justice.
If you hear colleagues or family say otherwise, or say nothing at all, please remember that you have as much power to start the conversation as anyone else. If you're in a position of authority – especially if you are white – please keep the conversation going and focused on data and results.
*St. Paul is cool too, btw.
A call to action to investigate community media
Please investigate, read/listen and donate to the Black- and Indigenous-led media companies in the Twin Cities:
- Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, a 60-year-old Black-owned newspaper in South Minneapolis
- The Sahan Journal, a new digital media outlet covering immigrant communities in Minnesota
- Insight News, a North Minneapolis-based Black-owned newspaper
- Matriarch Digital Media, a women-first podcast network
- On Site Public Media, a digital-first activist media organization
- The Circle News, a newspaper serving the Indigenous community
- KMOJ, a radio station serving communities of color
When I hear media critics wringing their hands about the death of local media and newspapers, I think about these independent media organizations, some new and some decades old, that remain in business because they directly serve their communities.
When white-run mass newspapers or alt-pubs shut down, I think: what could they have learned from the sustainable media practices from communities of color? (I'm sure the answer has much to do with to do with scale, sales and the profit margins of white corporate media ownership. But it would be great if a media biz reporter could explore the issue instead of whatever trust-fund-supported media they're ogling now.)
I am often endlessly frustrated with our local mass media ecosystem, but even the conservative billionaire-owned StarTribune has made significant progress, featuring many reporters of color who do absolutely phenomenal work despite the obvious influence of a curmudgeonly editorial approach. It's on a story-by-story basis, but change is happening.
Additional links to commemorate this anniversary
- MPD150 - a report on MPD's troubled history compiled and completed well before George Floyd's murder
- Darnella Frazier's statement on the anniversary of George Floyd's death
- An excellent essay about white fear of Blackness
- Facts on why we can't link rising crime to defunding the police, from The New Republic
- 7 myths about defunding the police, debunked from The Brookings Institute
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