Why here? A question that has rung all over the twin cities in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. With the destruction of East Lake Street in Minneapolis many are asking why.
In May Minneapolis became something none of us could have foreseen. The murder of George Floyd sparked not only outrage in the metro area but accross the nation and world. With protests and demonstrations still occurring globally the George Floyd protests are potentially the largest public demonstrations in recorded history. A common question floating around the now epicenter of the protests is, “Why here? Why Minnesota?” Minnesota is known as a progressive, welcoming, and safe state synonymous with “Minnesota Nice”.
According to a report from the NAACP’s Minnesota and the Dakotas chapter, Minnesota is ranked among the worst places for Black people to live. In every facet of life Black-Minnesotans are severely behind, especially in home ownership.
You may be asking yourself, what does home ownership have to do with the murder of George Floyd? He was killed by police officers, not some deviant group of marauding homeowners. While home ownership is not the catalyst behind this phenomenon it is still very important and is tied with policing in America.
The first official police department in the United States was founded in Boston in 1838. Before that in the Northern US there were two forms of policing. The watch which usually consisted of citizens who were being punished for affronts to the community, and private security, which merchants and other tradesmen used. In the south the primary form of policing took the form of slave catchers, who’s name is pretty self explanatory.
Why did we change from loose and decentralized policing institutions to centralized government controlled ones? Dr. Gary Potter has done research on this topic and notes that in the 1830’s the US was shifting from an agrarian society to an urban one. A running theory is that due to the rapid urbanization police forces were needed to quell the upsurge in violence. Dr. Potter refutes this with data that doesn’t support the claim. Rather, the cause for policing comes from the interest to protect capital. Two of the three aforementioned policing entities dealt with the protection of capital and are by no coincidence the ancestors of the United States police force.
Now that we have established that policing in the United States was not formed on the basis of public good but private property, let’s look at the George Floyd case. Mr. Floyd was apprehended because he was accused of violating the property of the US, it’s currency, through forgery. Police protect property, home ownership being an extent of that; Black-Minnesotans don’t own that much property. Minneapolis is the largest city in one of the worst states for Black-Americans to live so it is really no surprise as to why the uprising started here.
Now that this tragedy has happened how can we address the inequality here? Next week we will discuss solutions to the problems Black-Minnesotans face in our blog post!