I am a white male who grew up in Prior Lake. I have never been discriminated against by the color of my skin, my gender or sexual orientation. It is because of this privilege that I can understand why many see police brutality and institutional racism as a Minneapolis problem or a narrative only the big city folk have to endure. Many cannot say the same. This is the issue: Institutional racism is in institutions, meaning it is lurking under our privilege in all towns, big and small.
People are being killed by police officers, and black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police officers than white men. The police are the preferred target to address systemic racism because it is the matter of life or death.
As Wes Mader stated in a recent column, bad apples need to be held responsible and should be removed by the police chief, but they routinely are not held liable. Lt. Bob Kroll, Minneapolis Police Federation president, is working today though he has been sued multiple times for excessive force and has had discriminatory lawsuits placed against him by the current police chief.
Police reform could improve the way we prosecute police and remove the bad apples like Bob Kroll. Other police reform measures call for the need to reduce the police force. This will not abolish the institution but would restructure how police respond to calls, like minor domestics, that would be better served by a social worker who is trained to de-escalate these types of situations.
Policing reform addresses just one of many problems associated with institutional racism, which we see in our judicial, banking and education systems. These examples are more subtle forms of racism, though there is still blatant white supremacy. Hate crimes related to race have been on the rise in recent years as well as the number of groups associated with racist ideologies.
Since 1918 the FBI continues to investigate the KKK and has brought to light police officers’ affiliations with the secret society. No, this was not in a big city; this was in Fruitland, Florida (2014), and Muskegon, Michigan (2019).
Looking to faraway places such as Fruitland, Muskegon, Minneapolis, Louisville, Sanford, it is too easy to say my community is not racist, Minneapolis’s problem isn’t society’s problem, we don’t have a race issue in Prior Lake. It is a dismissal of the voices of those being affected.
Prior Lake has its own share of racism. But unlike the blatant police brutality, it may be hidden, only showing itself through carved swastikas in bathroom stalls in our schools or through racist jokes that are brushed off as innocent. Minneapolis’s problem is society’s problem and Prior Lake’s problem.
Electing officials who will address and fix the issues is not the only way to solve the issue but is a small component. We need to unite as a community and listen to the cries of our neighbors. Listen to problems others face that you could never experience.