Recently, while sitting in a hot tub in Scottsdale, Arizona, a group of people (also Minnesotans) began voicing their displeasure with the ongoing protests in Brooklyn Park. One woman said, "I feel so bad for the officer," and her friend said, "(Daunte Wright) had a previous gun charge and resisted arrest. I blame his parents."
My mind started racing. How do I even begin to respond to these egregious remarks? After all, I'm on vacation, and I don't want to plunge into an endless debate with total strangers. But my conscience drove me to engage. I spoke up, saying that I felt bad for Daunte Wright and his family, not the officer, and added that systemic racism is to blame, not Wright’s parents.
Needless to say, my statement led to an emotionally charged debate about police use of force, implicit bias, generational trauma, reparations, and the presence of white supremacy in all areas of American society. It was a difficult conversation, and it put everyone involved and observing in a state of discomfort.
Well, guess what? Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, and other people of color live with discomfort every single day in this country. They experience racism on interpersonal, institutional, and societal levels in education, health care, housing, employment, media coverage, and more.
Specifically related to the discussion at hand, African American and Native American residents accounted for 34% and 13% of all Duluth Police Department use-of-force incidents in 2019 while only making up 2.3% and 1.8% of the Duluth population, respectively.
As white people, there is inherent privilege in our ability to stay “comfortable” and avoid difficult conversations. Only through all of us sharing in the hard work and discomfort of confronting racist ideologies and actions will we truly begin to dismantle racism.
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