Wednesday, August 13, 2008

North Minneapolis Follow-up

Little did I know that people actually read this here blog!

I think I need to be more clear about my contempt for the Minneapolis Police Department, particularly those who work on the Northside. As I was assuming that less than 10 people would actually read what I was saying, I was quite vague and generaliz-y about my comments.

So, if you know me, you know that my SO (which stands for significant other) worked in N. Mpls. last year in early childhood special education. Her working there is what first brought my attention to the plight of that part of the city, and really opened my eyes to the drastic lack of attention and care paid to the citizens there.

In addition to SO working over in North, I also went to a StreetLaw training course, which teaches law students how to go into high schools and inform kids about their rights and responsibilities. During that training session, a public defender who works and lives in North shared some information which is probably well known and understood as reality for the citizens in North, but still shocking for an idealist white kid from Highland Park. While many believe the problems in North stem from the people living there (they're all criminals! they deserve what they get!), the truth seems to be that the police have all but given up on a part of town that they allowed to get out of control in the first place.

Leftist race theory junkies all know this in the abstract, but hearing tales of 16 year old kids getting stopped EVERY DAY for merely walking down the street and police officers lording their power over innocent citizens really brought it home for me.

So move to the present, when two of my best friends own a home in the Bethune area of North Minneapolis. Their house was robbed this past weekend, and when the police came to "investigate," they did little more than look around, harass my friends, and move along their merry way.

Upon learning that the two are partners (you know, lesbians), the officer looked at them and stated, "Well, girls like you should really stick to Uptown." This comment only cements the idea that North Minneapolis has become a place where only "bad" people are supposed to live, and apparently law abiding citizens in that region are not entitled to the protection of the police or anyone else because, hey, they chose to live there.

It's difficult to talk about this without appearing to have also given up on North, but my view is completely the opposite. I believe that North can be revitalized, and I believe that steps in the right direction are being taken. However, there are things that the city, county and state could be doing that they're not. Schools in North Minneapolis have devestatingly low graduation rates, a statistic which has been proven over and over to have a direct correlation to crime rates. When the police are viewed by nearly everyone as a threat rather than an organization dedicated to preserving the peace, citizens have very little reason to trust them enough to seek help when they need it.

I realize that all of these thoughts have been stated before, and disparate treatment of people based on their race and/or socioeconomic status is nothing new in Minnesota or anywhere else. However, it's frustrating that more resources haven't been dedicated to revitalizing that part of the city. Granted, I'm the leftist that would be willing to pay more taxes to see this happen, and I realize that not everyone is down for that.

I feel like a teenager with angst when I say that I hate the police, and it is certainly not every police officer creating problems. I am very confident that many officers, probably even the majority, are interested in preserving the peace and treating people with respect. However, when every encounter I hear about has racist undertones, it gets very difficult to believe in the system.


wanda said...

Gays live in uptown...and no where else, duh
Nice defense and props to readership!
PS, are those ladies ok? the dogs? the bunny?

byrneme said...

I live in uptown. And I'm only gay because birth control got too expensive. Brilliant Kar. Brilliant as usual.

byrneme said...

and I laughed aloud when I read your comment. Thanks for that.