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Nathan Lemin

The Midwest in me wants to say, “Good, how are you?” to which you would reply “Good,” and keep walking and later tell the next-door neighbor, “I don’t think Nate’s doin’ too good,” which, today, would be true.

On Sunday, “up north,” my partner and I visited with an old friend at a sunny lake so our dogs could swim together. The friend’s husband, a police officer in a small suburb of Minneapolis, told us about the perks of his new quarantine schedule: seven 12-hour shifts in a row, followed by two weeks off, which gives him so much time with their newborn son. “But some of the older guys don’t like it,” he said, “Change anything and they complain.”

On Monday George Floyd, an unarmed, nonviolent, compliant black man, was killed by four Minneapolis police officers. This happened in Midtown. I used to ride the bus to shop at the Savers across the street, but it’s no longer there. Instead, brand new stores were built (an Aldi, a Target), a textbook case of Minneapolis gentrification. These are changes that white Minnesotans don’t complain about.

We asked the friend’s husband if he’s exhausted by the seventh shift. “The benefits far outweigh the fatigue.” They live in a town that has just 105 black residents. The friend makes “We Back the Badge” and black and blue American flag quilts. But I feel nervous, distrustful around police, like Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec, who is fictionally from small-town Minnesota.

George Floyd was a bouncer at Conga Latin Bistro. I used to live closeby, and friends and I would go there on nights when The Front was closed or too busy. That was a happy place—loud music, good dancing.

I’m just trying to position myself in this city that I loved.

I moved away from Minneapolis in August of 2016. A few months earlier Prince had died and the Twin Cities came together to mourn our most cherished celebrity. That summer, Philando Castille was fatally shot by a police officer in a suburb of St. Paul and again, we came together, this time to protest at the Governor’s mansion. Later that month Will Smith, on The Late Show, told Stephen Colbert, "Racism is not getting worse, it's getting filmed." And today I see the quote plastered on social media posts in all contexts. 

So often I speak highly of the Twin Cities: the home that made me who I am. The Cities taught me to care about community, to support local artists and businesses, they taught me how to write. But I’m white. I’m a man. I’m starting to recognize my own inherent resistance to change. Change takes work from people who don’t need the change, but want it, people like me. I am exhausted by these police killings, but it’s time to do something more. The benefits far outweigh the fatigue.

To all my friends and acquaintances in Minneapolis and St. Paul doing incredible, selfless things to raise awareness and accountability for George Floyd’s murder, thank you; you inspire me and others to follow your lead, to be better.

So, “How are you?”

“I could be better.”

We could all be better.

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