Our Histories, Our Future: Moving from outrage to action

This week, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights released a report confirming what most of us already knew – that the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department “engage in patterns of racial discrimination”. The report is damning, retraumatizing, and not at all surprising to the thousands of Black, brown, and Indigenous activists who’ve shared their knowledge and experiences for years. As I read articles, analysis, and platitudes from the elected officials who’ve been complicit in this violence, I felt myself become overwhelmed by anger and frustration. So many of us have known that MPD is unreformable for years, and too many of our neighbors have been criminalized, violated, and killed as politicians like Mayor Frey cycle through feigned outrage and inaction. 

In moments like these, it can feel easy to forget that just months ago, the people of Minneapolis organized to put caring, inclusive, and accountable systems of public safety on the ballot, and that tens of thousands of us are ready to act to replace MPD. We might forget that our neighbors and communities take daily actions, big and small, to disrupt violent policing and model the systems of compassion and abundance that we all need and deserve to thrive. Our collective will can feel powerless in the face of a single, corrupt, politician. As we’re dragged (grief, trauma, and all) through another charade of apologies and useless reforms, we’re implicitly encouraged to give up our dignity, our wisdom, our agency, and our hope. 

We think of our privileges, our experiences of oppression, of power, and of justice as systems and structures – because they are. And, in moments of crisis and disempowerment, we remember those structures and systems and can look at them to make sense of why things are the way they are. The people who have the power to halt climate change and offer the planet a more liveable future are doubling down on fossil fuel production (and profits). Politicians who won their positions of authority through gerrymandering, voter suppression, and scare tactics are taking steps to disenfranchise even more voters and weaken our democracy. The police departments that criminalize and violate our communities are being given more and more money. All of these things are true, and they’re overwhelming – they’re meant to be. Oppression is designed to exhaust us, and make us feel powerless. 

But systems and structures don’t and can’t exist without us. Finding individual and collective agency and accountability, and building community and power within them, is crucial in our work to imagine and build new systems of care, abundance, and true justice. 

We have all the resources and the evidence we need to learn about our shared histories, and sufficient analysis and data to understand how they’ve shaped our current realities of oppression, settler colonialism, and oligarchy. As we continue to learn about the systems that are failing us, we need to stay grounded in what we need and deserve to thrive. We need to imagine a future where our policies and sensibilities truly work for all of us and give us the resources we need to live safe, healthy, and fulfilling lives. And we need to take bold, collective action to build power together and make that future a reality. 

Living in Minneapolis has been traumatizing and heartbreaking – and it’s also galvanized many of us, clarifying the urgency of investing in life-affirming systems of public safety. When I think about the summer of 2020, I still feel angry. I also think about what that time in our city demonstrated. There was our grief and pain for George Floyd. There was the awful and unforgettable police violence, and there was also our community; our mutual aid networks, our solidarity, and our collective courage. We made it obvious that we know how to take care of each other.

A year later, over 62,000 of us voted to replace the Minneapolis Police Department and make that care a reality, and our movement didn’t end there. All of us – especially those of us with privilege and disposable time and money – need to keep organizing, keep advocating for our shared values, and keep supporting our most vulnerable neighbors. 

It’s never been clearer that we have a moral imperative and the collective will to begin divesting from a militarized police force structured and designed to violently defend a white supremacist status quo, and to ratify our care into policies that fully fund public safety measures like harm reduction, violence prevention, and public housing. As Mayor Frey and MPD entrench themselves in cultures of racism, misogyny, and violence, we can still keep building the world we deserve. We have the wisdom, the imagination and the love to do it. 

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