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Mr. Nelson is a long-time north Minneapolis resident that has seen the good, the bad and the ugly in north Minneapolis while he attempts to address issues with his own unique brand of community engagement. Readers are invited to comment at firstname.lastname@example.org
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” ~Fractured ZEN Teachings
By James Nelson – Guest Contributor IBNN NEWS (Unedited)
I’ll never know what its like to be black. I do know abuse. I lived it. I found my niche with my black brothers and sisters. They generally understand abuse. They live it. Nonsense abuse. Abuse has shaped us all. Bound us together. I received it for being an “active child.“ They receive it for being black. I have one privilege they don’t: being white.
Recently, a young man I know claimed he was flipped off by two white MPD policemen, (I say “claimed” to provide proof of innocence until proven guilty). Allegedly: this 20 year old black man was mowing my lawn for free to help me out, a squad pulled over to the curb, rolled down the window with the passenger leaning over to flip him off as they slowly drove by making eye contact. Being in shock, but not retaliating, he ran into the house and asked his elder, me, what to do. Not being trained in this particular type of abuse, I sent an email to a few list serves asking what to do (it didn’t seem to warrant a 911 call but should be addressed). A welcome reply was quick to come from a local correction officer. The 20 year old followed his advice. I sent a thank you to all the lists for their advice. Two days later an email “reply to all” came back from the 4th precinct commander to another list person claiming I was out of order and should have known what to do: “Chief Dolan and I would never tolerate behavior like this and I can’t imagine any of my officers having done this. Without an immediate call or specifics, we can’t follow-up on allegations like this. Every one of our cars has GPS and we can track where it was at anytime during a day. If anyone has a concern, please call the precinct and ask for a supervisor immediately or call 911 and ask for a supervisor to call you back. They are required to follow-up and will do so immediately.” Seems simple but we don’t know what we don’t know. He was included in my inquiry as to what to do but never heard back until I read this. The 20 year old has still not heard back from MPD. The 20 year old didn’t cuss back but came in for advice as to what would be the right thing to do. How will any of us know what to do unless we are told no matter how much we think ‘they should know better.” Knowledge isn’t gained by osmosis but by asking, receiving the answer and clarifying to understanding.
My area of expertise is definitely not social etiquette, MPD policy or how to be politically correct. I am an expert at understanding kids, the misunderstood and organization. This is why we need each other. We have different talents and privilege allowing us to depend upon each other. To learn from each other with humility and appreciation.
The apparent lack of willingness to recognize that this abuse happens is troubling. All kinds of abuse go on in our community, not just by the MPD. I hate to see abuse. I know what it does first hand. However, I thank God for the abuse I’ve lived. I can read the signs from those that are living it. Its a universal language of abuse. I now know what to say. I know what helps me. I thank God for this gift of empathy. I work with kids. They soak up my communication like sponges. I wish I had the same when I was coming up. I can see the lights of understanding come on when abuse victims communicate with me. I see hope come alive in them.
I wouldn’t believe people could be so abusive either unless I hadn’t lived it. Who could imagine a father and church deacon spitting on his own son, stating “that’s what I think of you”. I was the son. Or beating your son until his siblings stopped it by screaming “stop, you’re going to kill him”. Outrageous abuse does happen.
Abuse survivors understand their peers. We affect each other. We are bound by community. Those that have been privileged not to experience abuse must empathize with their abused brothers/sisters. Acknowledge what they feel is real. Don’t diminish their experience, as it is not ours. Listen. Don’t say a word unless understanding is the goal. Allow them to be angry, frustrated, sad or whatever stage of healing they are currently in. Don’t offer advice or counter theories unless asked. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason: to listen.
I am privileged also in that I don’t deal with crime 40 hours or more a week. I need to gain understanding what abuse the MPD lives. I am enrolled in the MPD Citizens’ Academy this fall in an attempt to understand better the abuse they receive.
Everybody has a story. Read their story. This is how we can come together. Those of us that have privilege in one way or another must educate ourselves on what the less privileged need. Learn where you enjoy privilege that you are not aware of. Learn what those that don’t enjoy it need.