When I began blogging in 2014, it was because my son, Vince, had been sent to prison on a 50-month sentence for drug possession. He admitted he was a drug dealer and that the police had found drugs in his motel room. He also claimed they had moved his wallet from his pocket to near the drugs, so they could more easily seize his money.
I believed him, and the recent murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and subsequent protests has me thinking how much worse it could have been if Vince had been black, or if his arrest had taken place in Minneapolis instead of Rochester.
But it’s more complicated. Since 2000, 109 white people have died in “fatal encounters” with Minnesota police. That’s twice the number of black victims.
I get it—numbers are one thing and percentages are another. Fifty-six percent of the victims were white, whereas white people comprise 83% of Minnesota’s population. Twenty-seven percent of the victims were black, whereas blacks make up only 6% of Minnesotans.
Still, 109 dead people is a lot of humans.
And 68% of the killings occurred outside of Minneapolis or St. Paul. Here’s the data if you want to play around with it.
As the mother of a white son who had his share of run ins with the law, I don’t know how I could have worried any more than I did before he turned his life around. I cannot imagine how mothers of black and native sons, in particular, live with their worry on a daily basis.
But I worry when the problem is reduced to only a racism problem. Racism is a big part of it, but it’s also a police problem. It’s a male problem (96% of the victims in MN were men and the vast majority of cops are male). It’s a poverty, drug addiction, mental health, and cultural problem.
I’m not saying it’s so complex, so let’s not make drastic changes. I’m saying, let’s make drastic changes on multiple fronts.
People followed along as Vince’s and my stories unfolded in the blog. But what I got thanked for was transparently expressing my grief, rage, and shame.
I felt then, and I still do, that since race was not a factor in Vince’s arrest, people believed he deserved what he got, and maybe it was my fault.
I am reliving a lot of the same feelings these days, plus anxiety and ennui and a sense of unreality.
Today is the last of 14 days of quarantine after returning from the UK. I have become “institutionalized,” a term normally used for prisoners and others who are released after many years locked up. I went inside a grocery store last week; I had to buy food. I shambled, blinking, through the store wearing my mask, startled when people got too close, overwhelmed by something I have done a thousand times.
In my work I come across some surreal stuff.
There was the story about Merritt Corrigan, USAID’s new deputy White House liaison. She wrote an article last year in The Conservative Woman, where she said, “It’s time for women to return to the home, where we rightfully belong and where real joy and fulfilment await.” Corrigan’s role at USAID includes working with the White House to place political appointees at the agency. Also of note: USAID’s newly-appointed religious freedom adviser has a history of making anti-Islam comments on social media.
I saw a $600,000 US Government grant opportunity for “Mapping Russian Disinformation and Propaganda in Sub Saharan Africa.” The Administration knows Russia is doing this in the USA, right? They are working to fight it here, right? Probably not, since Russian disinformation and propaganda helped elect Trump.
Maybe Russia was behind bogus social media stories that the KKK was marching through Minneapolis last week, or that only people from out Minnesota were looting.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear which Federal agency ordered the Predator surveillance drone that circled over Minneapolis during the protests.
Unreal! But it is real!
Or is it?
So there you go, a fractured but honest account of my state of mind and emotions.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?