Sometimes it seems like I’m talking – and writing – about Black Lives Matter all the time. Let me explain why.
Back in 1903, W.E.B. DuBois wrote The Souls of Black Folk. He began the book with these lines:
“HEREIN lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.”
Today, despite all of the organizing, all of the marching, all of the blood shed and people martyred in the civil rights movement of the 20th century, the problem of the color line is still the problem of our time, the problem of the 21st century, in the United States and around the world. And today, Black Lives Matter embodies the challenge of the new civil rights movement.
Today, right here in River City, right here in Minneapolis and St. Paul, every day that I sit down to write, the problem of the color line, the problem of racial injustice, is real and present and local. Look up and down the street where you live, and see the residential segregation that still shapes the city. Go to work and know that unemployment is higher and job opportunities far more limited for black people and Native Americans and Latinos in these cities. Visit your child’s school, and find our education system failing children of color.
In 2014, Met Council chair Susan Haigh said:
“Today in our region, only 6 percent of white people live in poverty — that is one of the best rates in the country. But 25 percent of people of color in this region live in poverty — one of the worst rates in the country.”
Minnesota Compass has done extensive research. Their findings;
“People of Color make up the fastest growing segment of our population. These individuals will continue to make up an increasingly large part of our workforce. Many will also be among the future parents, caregivers and leaders of our region. Data also show that these members of our community are:
In November, police officers shot and killed Jamar Clark. Witnesses say he was handcuffed. The police and prosecutors refuse to release video evidence, saying that the investigation is ongoing and they won’t release evidence until it is complete. The prosecutors say they won’t decide whether to charge police: they will leave that up to a grand jury.
Protests that occupied the block in front of the Fourth Precinct police station, near the place where Jamar Clark was killed, continue in other places. On December 23, those protests move to the Mall of America (MOA), which will try to stop the protest or arrest the protesters. MOA tried to get a judge to issue an injunction against the protests and to order leaders to go on Facebook and Twitter and cancel the protest. That’s not happening. On Tuesday, the judge ordered three named leaders to stay away from MOA, but refused to enter any of the other orders.
The protest at the Mall of America is about Jamar Clark. But it is also about policing in Minneapolis, where the ACLU has analyzed data on 96,000 arrests and found that the structural racism that produces segregation and discrimination also permeates police attitudes and actions.
“The feeling that the Minneapolis Police Department treats people of color, particularly Black and Native American residents, differently than white Minneapolitans isn’t confined to Jeylani and his friends. It’s pervasive, and now because of new in-depth documentation we can see how broad and systematic it is.”
The protest at the Mall of America is about policing, but it is about more than policing. It is about justice, and about the problem of the color line that persists, right here in the Twin Cities, into the 21st century.