We’ve seen too much violence.
We’ve seen violence against cops— twenty officers hurt during Saturday’s Interstate 94 protest; twelve officers shot in Dallas on Friday, including five killed.
We’ve seen violence by cops—Philando Castile killed on Wednesday in Falcon Heights, and Alton Sterling killed last Tuesday in Baton Rouge.
We’ve seen violence against gays—forty-nine people killed and 53 injured in Orlando in June.
We’ve seen too much violence. Too much hate. Too much fear. Too many guns.
Not enough peace.
Some have compared this bloody year with 1968, when Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were killed. I was 7 years old. I don’t remember King’s death, but vividly recall Kennedy’s. My mother drew the curtains closed. She cried most of the day. We didn’t have dinner. We stayed inside, watching the tragedy on TV.
This year, after Philando Castile died, not far from my safe and comfortable Saint Paul home, I knew I couldn’t stay home and cry.
I needed to be out in the street, outside the Governor’s Mansion, and later, outside on 94, standing with others who say we’ve had enough violence, enough hate, enough fear.
I got arrested Saturday night on 94, arms linked with fellow Black Lives Matter protesters. We were standing for peace, standing for change. We were standing against violence. The men and women I stood with yelled out, begging bystanders who were throwing rocks at officers to stop. We did not want cops to get hurt. We were not violent.
I stood on the freeway because I want to stop violence. Our country has a problem with guns and a problem with race. We use guns to ‘solve’ problems, including our problem of racism. We need to find ways to deal with our problems, to deal with guns and to deal with race.
This afternoon in Dallas, President Obama spoke the truth. He said that we’ve all seen bias. We’ve seen racism, and none of us is entirely innocent. We have to face our country’s problem with race.
I don’t think most cops are racists. I do think our country—all of us collectively—treat people differently based on the color of our skin. Recent studies confirm the bias—blacks get stopped more, as these Minnesota and national studies attest.
The problem isn’t cops. The problem is racism. The problem is guns. The problem is us. We need to change. We – all of us, but especially whites, who have had privilege and power and a pass from facing our country’s racism—we need to acknowledge the problem. And then start working on ways to repair our country.
Standing on a freeway won’t solve our problems. Blocking traffic on a freeway is one small way of acknowledging our problems. We cannot continue doing what we always do. We can’t just feel bad about the latest violence and attend vigils and rallies. We need to stand up and do more. White like me have to be there to show people of color that we acknowledge the problem of racism that they are forced to live with.
I know I need to become more active, to listen more, read more, and do more. I need to challenge local, state and national candidates about what they will do to change our country. State Senator Scott Dibble of Minneapolis proposed a package of crime bills, including changing the grand jury process that most cop shootings use.
No one person or one bill or one solution will fix our problems with race and guns.
But the first step is to admit we’ve got a problem. We’ve seen too much violence. We need to stand up for peace and stand up for change.