"Literally we are all George": St. Paul's mayor reflects generations of pain among African Americans

“Literally we are all George”: St. Paul’s mayor reflects generations of pain among African Americans

It may have been an incredible sight for a black boy growing up in a big city, but Carter had a good reason – his father was one of St. Paul’s first African-Americans in the police force.

“He became a police officer in the early 1970s after a lawsuit called for the disbandment of St. Paul’s Police Department. And so they were part of a class of African-American officers who came in and have stories that weren’t always free, “Carter recalled.

Initially, Carter said, some of his father’s white colleagues in the force told him bluntly that they would not support him, “it doesn’t matter what happened” because he was black.

About four decades later, Carter broke his own racial barrier, becoming the first mayor of St. Paul’s African-Americans in 2018 – a distinction that now comes with an even greater and more complex responsibility, as the Twin Cities erupt in pain and anger. George Floyd’s death after a police officer brought his knee to his neck. Derek Chavvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, is charged with second-degree murder and three other officers on the scene are charged with aiding and abetting.

“Our challenge to the people is to be peaceful, but never to be patient. We are not asking people to sit aside and wait, while we are gradually and gradually stopping the tide of unarmed blacks and women who have been killed by its imposition. Let’s fight for change right now, for big and structural changes right now, “Carter told CNN in a virtual interview with City Hall.

Perspective as a black man has racist profiles countless times

The 38-year-old black mayor’s life experience in enforcing the law is not limited to someone as the son of a police officer. He said he was overturned and stopped by police countless times, simply because of the color of his skin.

“I had a broken tail and I had put the little bureaucracy on it. And the officer pulled me in and explained to me that right in the corner of the office you could see a little white spot and that’s why he pulled me, “Carter recalls.

“Even as a member of the city council, there were times when I would be withdrawn. And people would say, ‘Why don’t you tell them who you were?’ “And my answer is, if I have to be a member of the city council, if I have to be a mayor, if I have to be the son of a police officer to just face basic human dignity and not stop when I do,” I obey all the laws. maybe that’s the first problem, “he added.

“You start to feel that this is no accident. This is something very specific about who I am and what I look like. It can very easily create a big gap between me as a resident, as a young black man grows up in this community and the officers in whom I rely on them to help keep me safe. “

When his house was burglarized a few years ago, his first phone call was to the police.

“I came home and found that a stranger was in my bedroom. That a stranger was in my house, a stranger had passed by my things and took very personal items from my house. And at that moment he called the police and that is the paradox that we need these officers, we need them as much as we need them. We need officers who recognize our humanity, who understand our communities, who will show up and help. And the paradox is that I need a good cop, a good police department that I can trust, “said Carter.

The pain of his own family in St. Paul runs deep

Carter, who won his mayoral race at a busy 2017 stadium, is a proud fourth-generation resident of St. Paul’s, but his family has endured a lot of pain there because of their skin color.

“When I say I love this city. It’s not like a new love marriage where I have starry eyes and I think everything is perfect. It’s more than I know what your morning breath smells like, a kind of love that can be built over time, “Carter said.

His grandparents owned more than half a dozen commercial properties in what became known as the Rondo neighborhood, which was completely uprooted to make way for the highway there.

“Our community members were given pennies in dollars for their qualities, they were expelled from these qualities, these properties were bulldozers,” Carter explained.

African Americans at St. Paul was not the only community in the community – highways were built over black neighborhoods in cities across the country, from Detroit to Auckland.

“In our family history, the house burned down as a firefighter’s training,” Carter said.

“When we see people like George Floyd, who lose their lives in the horrific, haunted casual way we saw in this video, when my father can remember their family moving away from the old Rondo and remembering the fire department to burn his mother home as an educational exercise. When we have this incredible wealth as a nation that is undoubtedly focused and rooted in this bad historical institution of slavery, that was the work of my ancestors, but we have very limited access to the same wealth that this institution created, ”he added.

The disappointing remark of his 12-year-old daughter

Carter said he was struggling with what to say to his six children. But his 12-year-old daughter came to him with her own sober perspective on what happened to Floyd.

“He said he didn’t think he should be surprised by what happened last week,” Carter recalled, admitting he broke his heart.

“She does. How could she not? And I asked her, ‘Why would you say that?’ He said: “Because if we see ourselves being killed again and again in these videos and it seems like everyone is getting worse,” he said, “people have to do something.”

He said he took the opportunity to tell his daughter what he was trying to say to all the residents of the city who had been elected to serve.

“We had a discussion about this idea that we share with the people. Peace, but never patience. To say, ‘Yes, you’re right, we have to do something’ and it’s really understandable that people are as angry as they are, that “People are as injured as people are as impatient as these systems,” Carter said.

Carter explained the importance of channeling frustration and anger into limiting systemic racism, inequality and racial inequality.

“And we had a discussion about the fact that we have the opportunity to channel this energy, this frustration, this rage to destroy not only the institutions of our neighborhood, but also to destroy systemic racism, all the inequalities and inequalities we are talking about. for ad nauseum. ” certainly all the obstacles that are written in our laws, in the forefront of our court, and certainly in contracts of police union that make it so difficult to hold anyone accountable when a black life is wronged. he said.

“Literally we are all George”

Carter’s grandfather – the first Melvin Carter – was a Navy veteran who spent much of his life as a porter on the railroad. But people didn’t call him Melvin or Mr. Carter, they named him George. That’s what all blacks were called to.

“As a Pullman porter, it didn’t matter what your name was or how much experience you had or what your rankings were. They were all named George,” Carter said.

There was a 2002 film, “10,000 Blacks with the Name George,” that characterized this humiliating phenomenon.

He said in many ways that few have changed for blacks.

“I thought today that the assassination, the assassination of George Floyd, I think is so painful for us and so personal because for every black man in America, whether you are a lawyer or an architect or an accountant or a mayor, we know there is no credential. There is no amount of achievement. “There is no money that can change the fact that we are all literally George,” Carter said.

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