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home : readerswrite : onyourmind June 24, 2017

Where are my people?
" America is a country with a limited historical perspective and a short-term memory. People in our society are suffering from the affliction of "historic amnesia."
- Roxanne Givens

By Roxanne Givens


"Mother, mother there are too many of us crying-brother, brother there are too many of us dying ..."

These prophetic words are excerpts from the lyrics of Marvin Gaye's song, "What's Going On?"

The song was released in 1971 and could just as easily have been 2016. During the ensuing 45 years, little substantive or intentional transformation has occurred in Minnesota or our nation to address the cyclical nature of racial fissures. This leaves us historically traumatized. Are we doomed to relentlessly and repeatedly re-live the ugliest aspects of our history?

The root problem of today's deadly police force goes far beyond the unconscionable trigger-happy actions of any one police officer or any single police precinct. The problem is hundreds of years old and long overdue to be addressed. Minnesota has a long-standing systemic and cyclical history of unhealed racial traumas that reach back to the birth of this nation.

America is a country with a limited historical perspective and a short-term memory. People in our society are suffering from the affliction of "historic amnesia." Thus, Americans are robbed of any meaningful social or historical context for the interracial police abuse and violence routinely visited upon black, brown, poor and mentally ill Americans with seeming impunity.

Until Black life is valued to the same extent white life is by members of law enforcement, the criminal justice community and Minnesota elected officials, the question of legitimacy of the police and their actions will remain. Regularly scheduled race and equality training should be mandatory for all law enforcement officers, all governing bodies, local, state and federal employees and every individual elected to hold public office.

An impoverished understanding of history can and has led to Minnesota's unyielding cultural marginalization. History is about connecting the dots between the past and present, exposing true American history and making it accessible and relevant to a much broader audience. The goal of Black history, descriptively synonymous with American history, is to expose the larger community to the rich heritage, culture, contributions and history of African-Americans. By doing so we can eliminate some of the barriers of race that divide us as a nation.

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Where are my people who support the urgent need for social change models that are inclusive, safe environments - where authentic American history can come alive?

Where are my people who support the notion of merging political leadership with civic leadership to responsibly design and implement transformative and impactful policies? We can start by supporting a common sense approach to gun control laws.

Where are my people who recognize that the new brand of racism is about liberals publicly supporting but failing to recognize that some of the decision-making is actually hamstringing progressive policies?

I am mourning in the only way I know the recent murders of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, the police officers and others who were injured - by actively participating for social justice and demanding action. The horrific murders of law enforcement officers are tragic, deplorable and morally and ethically WRONG and counterproductive to progress!

What is going on and where are my people - the people who believe in dignity, freedom and justice for all - who stand for a renewed sense of intentional, determined and strategic collaboration?

Roxanne Givens is a sixth-generation African-American Minnesotan, philanthropist, founder of the Archie Givens Collection of African American Literature at the University of Minnesota, and principal founder of the Minnesota African American Museum.

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