Virtually everyone who has seen the video agrees. George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, who placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
But beyond that, there are varying degrees of agreement about what his death means, and what should be done in light of it.
Was the offending officer simply a ‘bad actor’ in the department? Were his actions the result of poor training? Or were his actions a symptom of a police culture of racial bias? A reflection of systemic racism across society? A racism that goes back to the very founding of our country, and the false claim of White supremacy; of “…Black people being best suited for or deserving of the confines of slavery, segregation, or the jail cell. Consumers of these racist ideas have been led to believe there is something wrong with Black people, and not the policies that have enslaved, oppressed, and confined so many Black people.” (1)
It is long past time to rethink America. To rethink the American dream.
To put it another way: while ‘all lives matter’, do ‘Black lives matter’?
The degree to which, as a society, we can come to agreement on these larger questions, will determine whether the pain and fury around George Floyd’s death – like the deaths of other unarmed African-Americans at the hands of police – will recede over time with little consequence, or fuel a movement that brings about fundamental and enduring change.
Our individualistic Horatio Alger story of the past that must be replaced with a new future story. A story that can only be written together, beginning with these questions: Are we truly committed to the common good? What obligation do we have to one another? In the midst of this crisis, and in its aftermath, are we willing to stand with each other in our community? Are we willing to stay at the table during the difficult and necessary conversations we must have about the pressing issues of policing, societal inequities, and systemic racism?
From the perspective of social cohesion, the racism inherent in our country’s history from the beginning, has made it impossible to weave the fabric of society in an equalitarian and equitable way. For this reason, our country has never truly demonstrated social cohesion. This is our legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation, leading to the present day realities of second-class citizenship, nagging anxiety, micro-aggressions, and mass incarceration for African-Americans. Unless we intentionally seek to repair – or, in many instances, establish for the first time – the relational dimension of society, we will not find the political will to ask the questions and confront the issues that must be addressed, alongside the action needed. Unless those of us on all sides of the racial divide come to not only be committed to the cause of racial justice, but to be committed to each other – to personally know and actively care about each other – we will never find agreement on what needs to be changed and the political will to realize it.
Now more than ever, we need to foster social cohesion in service to the hopeful prospects of social transformation that this agonizing, fragile and promising moment is making possible.
We need a new story, of coming together, where everyone can thrive. Where community is taken seriously. We must do so while frankly admitting that the most formidable barrier to social cohesion is the notion that it will somehow simply happen on its own. Community only happens when it is built intentionally – person-to-person, community-to-community – with unconditional regard, mutuality, and resolve. This is the mission and work of social cohesion: to intentionally ‘…cultivate a reservoir of trust, good will and resilience, so as to meet the practical challenges of living together with mutual respect and shared responsibility.’
Current work of the Initiative:
- Envision Minneapolis: Listening to the diversity of the Minneapolis community in search of an inclusive vision for the future
- Civic Conversations: Engaging in meaningful conversations about what matters with people you might never have met
- Living Into Our Welcome: Building a renewed sense of community in the Willmar area in the midst of change
- A Seat at the Table: Insuring that those served and impacted have a definitive role in decision-making
- Ecology of Actors: Getting the ‘ecology of actors’ into the same room with a community-first agenda
It’s already happening.
The Social Cohesion Initiative is an assets-based approach, tapping into ‘the capacity of a metropolitan community to draw on the assets of all sectors of society—government, business, education, media, the arts, organizations of civil society, and especially religious and spiritual communities—for its collective well-being…’
Our blog is full of examples of what’s already working in Minnesota as well as current reflections on social cohesion:
Strangers can become neighbors. Adversaries can find common cause. There is enough good will and resolve out there to make a difference.
If you are interested in the work of the Twin Cities Social Cohesion Initiative, please contact us:
Dirk Ficca: firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
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