I had an odd experience that happened recently during the Black Lives Matter protests this summer. I purchased something in Oxford, and while the payment was processing, the Black woman behind the counter grabbed the stuff I purchased to help me take it to the car. When I asked her why, she said it was something to do.
The United States is complicated when it comes to the relationship between different groups, but small moments like that make me think that we are not that far apart.
A lot of people are critical of cops, but I’m not. I was in a ride-along with police from the Oxford Police Department (OPD) a couple of years ago and watched a police stop that was almost identical to the situation of the shooting of Philando Castile, who is Black, in Minnesota. The difference between the two is that the OPD handled it properly. The police officer secured the gun, wrote the ticket for obstruction of the tag, and everyone left alive. It was all enhanced by having a backup car show up shortly after the stop. So, the Castile situation was purely a training and cultural issue within the police department in Minnesota.
A lot of the problems that relate to what happened to George Floyd were going to happen eventually. The events of the Floyd murder relate back to problems in Minneapolis and the various cultural differences that exist within the great melting pot that is Minneapolis.
I spent a lot of nights a couple of years ago walking back to Saint Paul from 38th and Lyndale in Minneapolis. This was where I had the choice of the most direct route down 38th, where Floyd died, to the Ford Parkway Bridge or walking up Lyndale and across Lake Street, where the riots destroyed the places that represented many memories I had from dates long past.
When the riots happened, I felt despondent. I knew exactly where the reporters were when the rioters were shooting rockets into the police department in the third precinct because I used to walk by there on the way home. I knew all of the restaurants and stores that were hit by looting as well. When the marchers walked down Summit Avenue, they were marching one block off of where I lived when I lived in Saint Paul. One block off the area that I represented as a precinct chair. It was surreal to watch.
One thing that I am appreciative of is that Minnesota provides an extraordinarily low hurdle to getting involved in politics and the broader community. In my case, you could have no ambition for it, and somehow find yourself in a political position. It is a crazy place but in a good way. It has in it in some ways the crazy we need. I wish them well, and I still love Minnesota. One of my friends in a phone call said that they loved me back, and, for that, I say thanks.
David Thigpen is a graduate student from Jackson, Mississippi.