This is a part of a comment sent to a local public radio station for a segment about protesting in America, which is washing over the United States after George Floyd was brutally murder under the knee of a cop.
My hometown is Minneapolis. I am white and of Norwegian heritage. My father was a Lutheran minister. We moved to Minneapolis from South Dakota just before I entered middle school. I hated the city and longed for the vast and empty prairies that my family had left, but in the course of my time living in North Minneapolis, I grew to love this city, the people, and culture deeply.
I attended North High School, which at the time was considered one of the most dangerous high schools in Minneapolis. There were riots at this school regularly back then. White people were a minority. At times, it was very hard such as the day I was punched in the head by a black man riding past me on his bike while I was walking to my school bus after school. This shook me deeply. But I participated fully in my school. I ran track and cross country and went to state in cross country skiing. I grew into my school and made many, many friends of many different skin colors than me.
After seeing George Floyd brutally killed, all my early years flooded back into me. I could feel the land and the people—and it was crying out with the pain of injustice and racial tensions that so many of my childhood friends had to live within. Friends who had showed me how to endure pain and injustice with courage and grace.
I just heard this air on Snap Judgement! Wow — Monaea Upton is wonderful and she is going to the high school I went to in North Minneapolis!
From Snap Judgement about this episode: Monaea, a 2020 Diary – Snap Spotlights “VICE News Reports” (Click the link to hear the story)
2020 has been a YEAR, and Monaea Upton has a lot to say about it. This week we bring you an episode from the podcast Vice News Reports. Vice sent 17-year-old Monaea Upton a recorder and she’s been keeping an audio diary of her senior year of high school in North Minneapolis — during online school, the aftermath of the George Floyd protests, and a spike in neighborhood gun violence. We take you inside her world.
This story does contain strong language, sensitive listeners please be advised.
BIG BIG love and special thanks to Monaea Upton, for letting us into her world! Thanks to her Mother, Rochelle Upton, as well.
This episode was produced by Vice News Reports, a new weekly podcast hosted by Arielle Duhaime Ross. Go on… check it out! This incredible podcast brings you to the news so you can hear it for yourself. VICE News reporters and producers take you along as they travel across the globe to where life is happening, right up to the frontline as a story is unfolding. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!
You can also check out VICE News on their website, Twitter, or Instagram.
VICE News Reports is produced by Jesse Alejandro Cottrell, Jen Kinney, Janice Llamoca, and Julia Nutter.
Senior producers are Ashley Cleek and Adizah Eghan. Associate producers are Adreanna Rodriguez, Sam Egan, and Sophie Kazis. Sound Design and music composition by Steve Bone and Kyle Murdock.
The executive producer and VP of Vice Audio is Kate Osborn. Janet Lee is Senior Production Manager for VICE Audio. Production coordination by Steph Brown. Fact-Checking by Samir Ferdowsi.
Special thanks to Mauri Milander Friestleben, Charles Adams, Sam Wilbur, Courtland Pickens, Azhae’la Hanson, Samir Ferdowsi, and Alex Baumhardt.
Photograph by Foluso Famuyide Jr, illustrated by Teo Ducot
Season 11 – Episode 41
I Never Protested Until
I have never considered myself a person who protests, but when the Woman’s March took place, I was compelled to go down. To my great surprise, not only did I go down, but I interviewed more than 30 people attending the march. I was terrified to go up to people and ask to record them and their reasons for coming, but I did it. Everyone I asked was happy to express why they were there. As I grew more comfortable going up to people and doing this, I realized I was falling back on my implicit bias and only going up to older white women. So, I challenged myself to find individuals outside of my invisible, internal bias. This is when I met Sioux Z Dezbah who protested at the Standing Rock protests, which had occurred before the Women’s March. Police had turned violent, and she had been hit in the eye with a rubber bullet or tear gas canister that caused her to almost lose her eye.
She was spectacular. I have attached this interview. I went on to interview as many different individuals than myself as I could.
I Am Afraid of the Police
Now, I realize I am afraid of what the police will do. Last night at Lafayette Park spectacularly demonstrates why I harbor this fear (i.e., Trump’s photo op at the church). And, the images of so many violent confrontations with peaceful protesters around the country is greatly disturbing. I understand that there are agitating, anarchist agents at work. But there are more peaceful people who are in pain. I am in pain. My country is in pain. There must be a better way.
The Mayor of DC said in a press conference after Trump’s photo op and what resulted afterwards (as well as before) that she was overwhelmed and could not take the time to discriminant between peaceful protestors and nefarious agents. I don’t buy that. If we don’t take the time now to understand what is going on, when will we understand this pain and hear it and honor it? Yes, the nefarious agents need to be detained, but hurting peaceful protestors, detaining peaceful protestors… I am distributed by this.
This is not the right direction now. Just as the coronavirus has made all of us stop and take more time to do ordinary things like going to the grocery store and change our behavior to protect each other. Now is a time to do the same around issues of white privilege and structural racism that have been baked into our systems, which are unsustainable. We need to take the time to find the people who are clinging to their fear of losing power and looting and hurting police from the peaceful protestors. We should not be hurting and arresting peaceful people who are joining together to embrace a new, braver, better America.
Like the heroes of Swan Street in DC: Protesters Shelter in DC Home Overnight After Being ‘Corralled,’ Pepper-Sprayed by Police
Also, women have long suffered from the stringent, misogynistic, brutal rules made by fearful white men. I experienced this in Denver when I was hit by a car while biking. The white, male police officer who came to the scene followed me to the hospital and harassed me for not wearing a helmet instead of looking for the driver to never even stopped and there were many witnesses he could have talked to get details about the car and driver. But instead he followed me to the emergency room and then threaten to write me a ticket and make me appear in court for not wearing a helmet. For goodness sake, it’s on me if I landed on my head when I fell. Rather I landed on my tailbone, breaking it, which was very painful and frightening enough. This was a mild case of police abuse, but the fear is real, and it spans across every interaction that bad Cops have with ordinary people who they are supposed to protect. I understand the mistrust. I have it too.
The Showdown in Lafayette Square — Are We Losing Our Democracy?
As more is coming out about what happened on Monday, there is good reason to fear the police, especially a militarized police being directed by a leader who interested only in amalgamating his power. For anyone interested in drilling down on the truth, here are two podcast produced by The Daily, one aired on June 4, 2020 and the other on June 5, 2020.
The Showdown in Lafayette Square: What happened outside the White House, and what it reveals about the debate inside over using the military to quell protests. Click the link to listen to this 31 minute podcast.
Why They’re Protesting: “Hate killed Mr. Floyd,” one said. “This kind of conduct has been allowed for far too long against people of color. And enough is enough.” This podcast is a series of interviews with individuals and what motivated them to take to the streets and protest now. It is a series of stunning interviews.
Another interview that aired on June 4 on FreshAir with Anne Applebaum is a must hear. She is an expert in authoritative governments and how people rationalize their complicity or collaboration in allowing a dictator to rise and grab power, then ruthlessly rule. She warns the United States is closer to this moment than we think it is.
Reality is complicated… and now it is more important than ever before to hold competing realities simultaneously in our mind to understand what is happening now. It is complicated and there are no simply narratives to explain it. It takes all of us to do the work to understand it, thus the title to Applebaum’s article in The Atlantic.
In the FreshAir interview, Applebaum tells how Trump’s intentional effort (along with many, many others) to simplify what is happening across the country due to the brutal death of George Floyd by a cop is an assault on democracy and a dangerous power grab — to which the Republican Senate is complicit like the Russian Duma or Hungarian governing bodies. She says that his and others attempt to blame the radical left and liberals as well as Antifa as the only reasons for the riots and looting is an intentional effort to divide Americans and grab more power.
Our own media doesn’t help by seeking the better shot on live TV of a trash can or police car on fire rather than a bunch of peaceful protestors doing the electric slide. Even our social networks tend to focus on these micro parts of a much bigger reality, thus amplifying or distorting them.
Applebaum says very poignantly that what we are witnessing is a Nation committing suicide (this is in the FreshAir interview when it is available), and history will judge harshly those who have been complicit in the destruction of democracy.
Another important interview occurring today was on The Kojo Nnamdi Show with an interview with Greg Carr Chair, Dept. of Afro-American Studies, Howard University; @AfricanaCarr. A brief overview of this critical piece of information includes:
The Civil Rights Fight Continues In 2020
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has sparked a movement.
All across the country, people are stepping out and rallying against police brutality and institutionalized racism. The District has seen a surge in protests, as thousands of residents have gathered for the last week.
As riots and looting remain a part of these protests, many see a comparison to the riots after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The comparisons between the fight for civil rights in the 1960s and today are easy to make, but how much do they have in common? What does this mean for the movement today and what happens next?”
A Better Way Forward
I think what the Sheriff in Flint, Michigan did before Trump’s disgraceful photo op is one model to follow. He put down his weapons and asked the people he knew and was there to protect what they needed him to do. They said walk with them, and he did! We need bridge builders now… not frighten white men who are blowing up our fragile community connections (I include our President and the disruptors taking advantage of and/or trying to hijack this extremely important moment).
I have been hearing the chant in my head that the white men in Charlottesville’s repeated over and over during that horrible gathering, which killed Heather Heyer. They chanted, “You Will Not Replace Us.” What terrible fear and smallness this chant embodies. I hear a new chant: “We are all connected.”
When we come to understand that ‘Your pain is my pain. Your weakest moment is mine too. Your suffering and loss of justice and human dignity is my loss of justice and human dignity. When we help each other to achieve justice, fairness, equality for everyone (no matter the color of one’s skin), we heal each other. And, as we heal, we can help Earth heal and recover from the damage we (the human race) has inflicted upon our planet.’
Climate Change Is Part of This Wave of Despair Too
Climate change is a part of this too because the same isolationist, authoritative, supremacist thinking is what is destroying our beautiful planet and accelerating Climate Change. The front end of the effects of Climate Change are already hurting and killing the people who have done the least to damage our world. The vast majority of people being impacted are black and brown and poor individuals who need to migrate due to deteriorating climate that is causing droughts, locus plagues, disease, lack of water, and wars. Then, when hurting humans try to escape these conditions in Europe and the US, they face another massive injustice with wave after wave of the anti-immigration policies thrown up against them, trapping them in dangerous places and situations.
Bridges to Hope, to Justice for All, and to a More Beautiful and Sustainable World
When we build bridges to justice and to hope and to sustainability, we build a more beautiful and sustainable world for all living beings on Earth.
Right now, in the USA, it feels like we are losing our democracy. We are no longer the land of the free and the brave. Rather, we are falling into a self-made chasm created by fear, injustice, intolerance, and oppression fueled by greed and a hunger to hold onto power. This hopeful moment of grief and outrage is being hijacked by small groups of people who are being selfish, or even worse, seeking to divide us. And, divided we fall…divided our beautiful world falls.
Just before Trump’s disgraceful use of St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo op of his power and authority, I had taken pictures of the moon rising over the Potomac. The juxtaposition of this beautiful and peaceful moment followed shortly thereafter by Trump’s use of force to clear Lafayette Park (the people’s park) just so he could walk across it for his photo op shocked me.
Your pain is my pain
I made this video and post as a creative act of defiance to capture this strange juxtaposition and terrible moment:
Moonrise Over the Potomac…Just Before Trump’s Photo Op
This is a moment symbolizing the Re-Feudalization of America. We are at the edge of turning the United State of America into an Authoritative, Dictatorial, Undemocratic Nation & Trump had a bible in his hand… give me a break. His deplorable photo op and call to use the military if governors could not stop the protests themselves occurred on June 1, 2020, if you can believe that. And now, he is building a fence around the people’s park.
It is important to remember that nature goes on so beautifully and perfectly without us… it’s our decision (isn’t it) if we decide to stick around here on beautiful Earth… or if she shakes us off, which she can do so easily…(more likely we will do that for her)
We are all connected–aren’t we. Your pain is my pain. Your weakest moment is mine too. When we help each other to achieve justice, fairness, equality for everyone (no matter the color of one’s skin), we heal each other, and as we heal, we help Earth keep being so beautiful (and she heals us too…). This little movie is a creative act of defiance against the forces that are crushing us. We need to join together like never before… all around the world.
As I posted the video and words above, my friend in Norway posted this:
“All is good. America is mad. USA and Brazil governed by demented psychopaths. Pandemic. Collective insanity in the world. Climate crisis. Extinction of species. People staring at small machines most of the time, seeing bullshit, vulgarity and trivialities. Disconnected. Arguments with ghosts and shadows. Truthers the liars, pro-lifers the killers, antiracists the racists, “we are waking up!” from the most asleep, cops the criminals, those with vision lacking power, those with power lacking vision, those speaking most, least to say. Pollution. Plastic, water, air, soil, language, mind, conduct. Hypnotic memetic parasites feeding on human attention, funded by internet profiteers, distracting from everything valuable. Numbness. Science fiction entertainment: evil, murder, death and doom on the menu. Lovers divided. Brother against brother, sister against sister, father against mother, parent against child, neighbour against neighbour, human against human, based on misunderstanding. Disease. Seldom ease. Worried, restless, wanting, rushing, thinking, thoughts of empty babble: state of modern mind. Round and round and round. Dreams replaced, laid to waste, by crap, with haste. Until this life shall meet its end. Finger pushes send. Message into void placing bet. Hope for something yet to get. And yet. All is good.“
His comments resonated so closely with the juxtaposition I was trying to capture in my video and words. So, I shared my video and some of my post.
He responded saying: “Wow this video really hit home with me!😀 I know just this feeling, from some of those enormously wonderful summer days when the whole world explodes in wild beauty and song. This really hits the essence of what I wrote about last night as I was supposed to go to sleep, when then this sentence «All is good» suddenly came to me like a wise whisper. I realized that this simple everyday expression which points to an eternal truth, is also a container that can hold all the painful and mad absurdities of our time safely. Like that great big sky we catch a glimpse of in the video is always in the background, looking over and holding us, safely and patiently and gloriously.”
I said: “Yes, this is such a raw and painful moment in the US. You could not have known what was happening here, nor did I know what Trump was going to do as I filmed this beauty in DC just before one of the most disgraceful moments of our modern age in the US. I felt the juxtaposition of our collective human now with nature’s beauty was so powerful. This is what we will lose if we lose ourselves.”
Thank You Because You Are the Change We Need Now
If you cannot protest, take the time NOW to understand reality from many different angles and perspectives. We all have time right NOW to understand our reality better because of COVID, so take it to become informed, to become an expert. This is the strong medicine we are all going to need for what needs to be done next — when the protests calm down and COVID subsides (or doesn’t and we go into lockdown again) — when we emerge from this NOW, we have a devastated economic landscape, fractured communities, broken justice system (as well as just about every other system)… in short, we are in trouble.
Stay informed! I rely on you and you rely on me to understand Now.
Thank you for reading! Your time and attention is precious because where each of us puts our time and attention reality grows. I choose to put mine as much as I can on peace, love, and understanding. I choose justice for all living beings.