By db, First of May Anarchist Alliance Minnesota Collective
What is at Stake in North Minneapolis and #Justice4Jamar
This article is written by member, db, a new school teacher and resident in North Minneapolis. The lessons and realities here come from conversations with hundreds of residents, students, neighbors, and protesters. As you’ll see the situation in N Mpls shares much in common with a city near you.
The horrific execution of an unarmed, handcuffed, on the ground black man in front of dozens of witnesses has led to an outburst of struggle whose fire is not spent and whose meaning is still being defined. In this article, I will argue that what is at stake in this struggle is the future of North Minneapolis, which, in miniature, is a question of the future of our cities and of working class people across the country.
Without going too deeply into one man’s life, we can see the overlapping forces of a city, state, and nation who choose to disinvest in his neighborhood, a school system that failed to provide him with sufficient opportunities or political consciousness, a prison system that would be happy to wastefully consume much of his life, and a status quo that wishes to see all people like him literally gone from the city, and perhaps the world. By the hand of a gun. By sentence to a prison cell, and the shift from freedom to actual existing slavery. By economic disinvestment and displacement, including fleeing the real and imagined school failures undermined by those seeking to make money off poor areas cleared of poor people.
Or rather, before addressing Minneapolis in particular, let us note that in all US inner city neighborhoods today there is a parallel history of:
- Decades of deindustrialization, redlining, and disinvestment, such that neighborhoods were unable to improve themselves as jobs and money were taken away, while the only funding available was from nonprofit funding streams where the problems and solutions were defined by the people creating the problem in the first place.
- This divestment contributed to the naturalizing of the drug trade as a daily means of survival, the explosive growth of the prison system as a way to enslave rather than meaningfully employ vasts sections of the populace, and with it the false dichotomy between innocent church dwellers and guilty gang members. Such a dichotomy empowers a narrative that crime is not economic or political, but that it is about controlling inevitable human evil whether defined as poor, black, Muslim, etc, and that solutions must be harsher measures and greater police powers, not changes, opportunities, or investments.
- We are now seeing a nationwide wave of economic displacement (gentrification), built on the years of divestment, where developers, investment funds, corporations, and middle class, typically white, people can buy up properties cheap, raise rents, and make incredible profits, as well as displacing ‘undesirable’ populations out of the center of the city, often through school closings and other rigged failures, to provide city with taxes and ‘green city information economy lifestyles’.
In North Minneapolis, families have been getting displaced–largely prior to an upcoming wave of development–as the increasing shift of suburban and outstate white people to the city and the gentrification of Uptown and Northeast is creating a funnel effect whereby lower income people are pushed into new neighborhoods, rents are raised, and more people are displaced. 50% of people of color now live in the suburbs. A city council member held a forum on the question of “Who Will Get to Live in Minneapolis by 2020?” which was largely attended by young college educated white people. Displacement and its responses then are both rapid and necessary.
We are akin to frogs being cooked, the slow increase of heat prevents us from acting until we have been eaten–only by creating insistent, militant conflicts over control of space, price of rents, ownership of the neighborhood, and purpose of development can we alter this process.
Police Murder and Displacement
In North Minneapolis, the death of working class black people is seen as natural and inevitable, like their displacement from Minneapolis city limits. Murders are things that the city “withstands” not feels, or are outraged by, and the shift in Minneapolis, Chicago, and elsewhere from drug territory based gangs to explosive unfocused clique violence has almost surely been empowered by police and the city with the shift of their goals from containment to displacement. Moreover, the significant non-response to the ongoing deaths of black teenagers, from the slow arrival of police, to the racism of policing and prisons as a solution to social problems is an extension of and directly connected to the outright police murder of harmless citizens and the assault on their terms of credit, schools, consciousness, and more.
Redlining and the Character of Recent Development
The recent, rapid, and soon to be here explosion of white development for middle class overwhelmingly white people–from breweries and German no chlorine swimming pools to hometown basketball star invested apartments and previous university and nonprofit service centers–makes clear the ways in which capital and credit have been intentionally excluded from black, indigenous, immigrants and others working class living in North Minneapolis, and about the clear desire to remove them, rather than facilitating the creation of a viable neighborhood grown from its own impressive cultural, political, and economic potentials.
North Minneapolis has been defined by the powers that be as a service center, a nonprofit job hub, a data cow for poverty pimps, a place to stay not to live, even as the community has consistently overwhelmed narrow definitions, and created life worth celebrating. If there is money for development it should be developed by, and in the interest of working class Northside residents.
Schools and Prisons
The state of education on the Northside, while both terrible and terribly slandered is perhaps best understood by the giant and near empty Harrison/Riverbend complex, where a fabulous facility has been turned into a prison for a few students most in need of an education for the world described above. Even as “emotional and behavioral disorder” as a political special education diagnosis has the financial resources to provide a valuable education, just not a philosophy of liberation to do so. Similarly, as the death of working class people is seen as a policing, not an opportunity problem, so is misbehavior in schools often seen as requiring more punishment and character slander, rather than addressing what schools are, or are not, bringing to working class communities of color.
Minneapolis Public Schools are divided between a first, highly successful majority middle to upper class white schools and programs, and a second, significantly less successful majority working class people of color schools and programs. This second school system is sabotaged at every turn, through poisonous test prep initiatives that take staff time away from and distort the purpose of teaching and learning, employee churn due to the threat of anytime job loss working in a school with “low test scores”, the intentional closing down of successful initiatives, and the slow delivery of resources or programs or sometimes just…not renovating a building for a month in the summer.
Sadly, charter schools, even the so called “highly successful” ones are an even worse failure, despite fuller corporate grant sources and systematically kicking out special ed children and others who fail to comply with their test score goals. Particularly important is the way in which these schools are sabotaged by non-organized working conditions that prevent staff continuity, including lack of staff voice, long hours, highly authoritarian and often toxic climates, and a much larger percentage of the money coming in going to people at the top.
On top of this, last time I checked, Minnesota spends roughly 50K per person, per year, to keep people in cages, much of this money spent to enslave, rather than succeed thousands of people from North Minneapolis. Like economic displacement and misallocation of resources, the community needs to seize control of our schools and transform them, engage in militant direct action to change the course of history our schools and prisons, and demand control over, more, and better use of resources supposedly tied to community safety, education, and well-being.
What is Needed: Organized Community Self Defense and Mass Action
It is in this context the call for #Justice4Jamar must include but go beyond prosecuting the police officers that shot him, and the mass disruptive action that will require.
We must understand this fight as being intimately connected with and having the possibility of connecting and creating both organized working class community self defense via community patrols, block, workplace, school, or church committees–to protect against the police and anti-social violence, individual instances of economic displacement, miseducation and the misjustice, and to train ourselves to succeed at doing so–to united fronts for community wide mass actions against injustice and for rent control, seizing of vacant, dormant, or withheld property for community use, taking control of our schools and their hiring and curriculum, demanding or taking access to credit and the direction of development from middle class white development for middle class white people to community development for community people.
Doing so must intentionally name and avoid the pitfalls of being controlled by the interests of professional middle class leadership, black or otherwise, whose interests are not the communities’–be they nonprofit leaders, landlords, pastors, and so on.
Nor should we believe the mechanisms the system sets up to control dissent–electoralism, public comment meetings, system-funded nonprofits, university experts, polite lobbying, and so on–will be sufficient. This should not discount the need to monitor or disrupt such sites to push our agenda and the importance of well organized united fronts that can draw on the talents, connections, and resources of all people that understand their side and place in the struggle.
That said, our core power is our ability to disrupt the system that relies on our silent consent–on the streets, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and prisons–and the ways in which such sites are run by or require us and should therefore be under our control and run in our interest. It is only through such struggles that we can create the a truly vibrant multi-cultural “one Minneapolis” and the revolutionary consciousness needed to bring changes to our communities and work for the overthrow of this violent system.
The power needed to address or defend our daily needs is the same power that can create build a revolutionary movement for freedom that serves both our daily needs and glorious human potentials. For freedom, justice, and equality! For anarchy!
1. Anarchy is not chaos but direct community/worker control of our institutions on the basis of social justice, be they schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, etc. Compare this to capitalism, where a small powerful few determine society and its institutions for the purpose of their profit, or state communism where the government controls everything for the same purpose.