To the Editor:
George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis almost a month ago. I’ve done a lot of self-reflection during that time about the things I have or have not done in the past to allow racism to continue in my community. There is one example in particular that sticks out in my mind.
Since my family moved to New Hope in 2013, we’ve invited friends and family over to enjoy Duk Duk Daze with us. Our kids have grown up watching the parade, playing carnival games and marveling at the fireworks.
In 2019, I was dismayed to learn of “security” measures that had been put in place. Charging admission, having gates and a single point of entry, and doubling police presence certainly didn’t signal community to me. On Saturday evening, police shut down the festival due to “an uncontrolled crowd of juveniles,” some of whom–children–were pepper sprayed. On its 50th anniversary, the community festival was permanently shut down in favor of a one-day “safe and family-friendly” atmosphere.
I believe that both the alleged “safety measures” and the ultimate cancellation of the event are the direct result of racism in our community. I think “safe and family-friendly” is code for “white.” For centuries, we have responded to the presence of black and brown people with fear, control and increased policing, and black and brown people have been hurt and killed as a result.
Diversity in New Hope is on the rise. In the 2000 U.S. Census, 86.66% of residents were white. In 2010, 74.5% were white. This isn’t just a local trend–communities are changing in Minnesota and across the nation.
What if instead of putting measures in place to keep people out, we had done the work to meaningfully engage all the people that showed up? What if, instead of operating from a place of fear and control, we recognized the opportunity to learn? What if our city employees, city council and police force mirrored the diversity of the community they serve? We might still be able to celebrate our communities–just as they are.