“An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak, and impossible to remain silent.”
-Edmond Burke/Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial
On May 25, George Floyd was murdered by members of the Minneapolis Police Department. In a video, Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck while he repeated “I can’t breathe!” until he lost consciousness. Community members can be heard pleading with the officers to check Mr. Floyd’s pulse, but Officer Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck and no other officers at the scene intervened.
The terror of race-based violence and the refusal by police to protect Black people has deep roots in Minnesota. Nearly 100 years ago, Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie were unjustly lynched by a mob of white Duluthians. These men were accused of raping a white woman (a physical examination by a doctor showed no signs of rape or assault) and were being held in the jail when a mob gathered outside. Police were ordered by the Commissioner of Public Safety not to use their weapons, so the mob easily broke in, held a mock trial, and dragged the men to the intersection of First St and Second Ave E, where they beat and lynched the three men.
The officers at the site of George Floyd’s death have been fired. It is good that these officers’ actions have been condemned. But whether violent acts like these are condemned or condoned, as long as they continue, our community is not safe. Firing the officers will not bring back George Floyd. Denouncing racism will not reunite George Floyd, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Stephon Clark, Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, or Isaac McGhie with their loved ones. Justice is more than that: it requires that we create a world where all people can live knowing that their death won’t come prematurely because of the color of their skin. No arrest should end in death.
To our neighbors of African-heritage:
We love you. We see you. We are grateful for you for all the ways you contribute to our community. You are an asset to Duluth and an important part of the past, present, and future of our community. Take care and pay attention to what you need right now. Ask for help if you need it. We are here if you want to reach out.
To our white neighbors:
Watch the video of George Floyd’s death. It is hard to watch, but it is important for white people to understand the ugliness of racism, the reality of anti-Blackness, and the terror of white supremacy. As you watch, consider all the ways any one of the officers could have stepped in to stop what was happening. Notice how they didn’t. Ask yourself if there are meaningful ways you have stepped in to change our culture that allows this to happen. Notice if you haven’t. Challenge yourself to incorporate anti-racist action in your daily life. Educate yourself, and then educate your family and friends about the daily realities of racism in our community. Support organizations in the Twin Ports that are engaged in combating racial inequity by volunteering or making regular donations. Use your power or position to craft and champion anti-racist policies, even if it is hard-- especially if it is hard. Support your friends and neighbors of color in this time of grief.
To take action:
- Join the NAACP. Many folks are asking what they can do and how they can help, start here. Support local organizers and activists with a membership. If you are already a member, give a donation to support our efforts. And please join a committee and share your time with us!
- Attend protests if you feel safe to do so, being sure to wear face masks and stay physically distant from others. We understand folks have a wide range of emotions surrounding this issue and protests are a good way to connect with the community around an issue you care about.
- Light a candle at the time of George Floyd's death (9:25pm Central Time) on Friday, May 29th. Have a moment of silence, pray, or meditate for his family. Have conversations about the history of systemic racism in policing and anti-blackness within our country. This Racial Justice Research Document from Rachel Cargle is a great start. Please support her time and efforts with a donation if you are able.
- Send letters or call the Hennepin County Attorney's office, who can press charges on the officers involved in the killing.
- Understand that Black people are traumatized and need your support. Try buying dinner or necessities for your African heritage friends and community organizers. Invest in Black owned businesses and organizations like DanSan Creatives, Blackbird Revolt, Families Rise Together, Family Freedom Center, Najen LLC, Pinnacle Pointe Studios, St Mark AME Church, Calvary Baptist Church, Health Alliances Matter Consulting, and others (send black-owned businesses in the Twin Ports to firstname.lastname@example.org to have them added to this list).
- Donate to the family of George Floyd via their official GoFundMe.