The memorial for George Floyd, whose May 25 murder sparked nationwide protests, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 12, 2020 (Tim Gruber/New York Times)
Written for America Unfiltered, the joint project of EA WorldView and The Clinton Institute, University College Dublin:
Only a few months after I moved to Minneapolis in 2006, I was warned about 38th and Chicago.
On my first day at work, upon learning that I had taken the bus and gotten off across from Cup Foods, my new boss — a white woman — said something that I’ve never forgotten: “Be really careful about 38th and Chicago. It’s a bad area, a bad intersection. Someone was shot there recently.”
She gave me, another white woman, a knowing look. The volume of her voice had lowered, like she was confiding something in me, like her warning required a hushed tone.
Fourteen years later, a white police officer murdered George Floyd at that “bad intersection”. Derek Chauvin ground his knee into Floyd’s neck for seven minutes and 46 seconds while three other officers stood by and watched.
In the wake of the June 2020 uprisings in Minneapolis that have expanded globally, I’ve been reflecting on that interaction, that intersection, and the larger structuring forces of whiteness and white supremacy in the United States.
Minnesotans are famous for “Minnesota Nice,” which I learned actually meant “Minnesota Ice” to Minnesotans of color. The thinly veiled racism of the phrase “a bad intersection” relied on me to understand the racist coding of the word “bad”, about which there was no confusion. “Bad,” of course, never meant something like how 3M polluted Minnesota’s waterways or the sexual violence committed by fraternity members in Dinkytown, the student-filled neighborhood adjacent to the University of Minnesota.
My boss’ warning offers a short-hand encapsulation of the dynamics of race, space, policing, and anti-Blackness that made that intersection dangerous for Floyd.”