Victor C. Ariole
Going by observation of some endemic brutal cities, Minneapolis does not seem to be one. Hence, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis is quite abnormal. I have been to Minneapolis three times; in between 2005 to 2015. It was a lovely transit visit by air as well as road – respectively by St. Paul International Airport and Greyhound Bus movements. The friendliness of Minneapolis, then, was vivid by the people I plied the Greyhound Bus heading to Minneapolis from Atlanta, through Chicago, Milwaukee etc to Minneapolis. However, at St. Paul International Airport, provenance, I was a bit taken aback but it turned out a pleasant surprise.
Looking for a taxi to convey me to my destination for a brief visit and then to New York, I found everywhere around the cab station of the airport African-looking people. (The world should relearn classifying people as black, brown, white or people of colour like you just don’t call a woman fat or thin in USA). I saw a Somalia-looking guy directing the cab drivers on who to pick and how to go about it. I approached one of them and asked him if the airport is dedicated to Africans alone as I was hesitant in boarding any of the cab. The person I approached calmed me and said that there was nothing to be afraid of; that it was part of America’s wonder ways; that he came to USA with other Somalians in a loaded aeroplane from Somalia, no protocol and landed in Minneapolis, and they have to organise themselves to be cab drivers. Indeed the journey was arranged by Americans.
So, today as I hear Ilhan Omar as the first lady Somalian-American representing Minneapolis, it is no surprise. The surprise only shows up when you see her aligned with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex and The Speaker as great Democrats fighting for the rights of workers in a greatly bourgeois Republican dominated USA. Minneapolis seems to represent the current USA dichotomy of the battle of far left and far right.
Unfortunately it has culminated in the show of police brutality as both Omar and Ocasio-Cortex call for the defunding or dismantling of the police in USA. Coincidentally, Minneapolis as the 45th largest City in USA, had become the testing ground for the sustenance of the 45th President of the USA. African-Americans are in it again to make or mar the stake, as the death of George Floyd had heightened electoral uncertainties.
Like the current pandemic, COVID -19, proves, the death of African-Americans in USA is like endemic. Medical reports from Minneapolis on George Floyd’s death claim it is linked to failing health due to substance use. It turned funny but data have it that 114 people die every day as a result of drug overdose and that 6,500 people are hospitalised everyday as a result of substance use in USA.
Just like Floyd was said to have relocated to Minneapolis for a fresh beginning, a Caucasian lady I met in the course of my visit also told me that the friendliness of Minneapolis made her to relocate from her Atlanta base to Minneapolis. Around midnight she took me to a place understood to be make-shift sleep corners for both male and female. And the people I saw there seem mostly people on drug; male or female. The dichotomy, however, was that on the first floor women are seen as the occupants and they are all Caucasians, though very few.
But at the ground floor where no fewer than 500 people could be sighted scattered with foams for saving everywhere, and I could not even stand the nauseating scene, as I managed to stay at the bar stand, near the entrance, the barking and shouting of African – American ladies forcing them to behave surprised me. African-American ladies policing their own “stow-away” male counterparts? I tried to interview those who paid attention to me at the bar corner and surprisingly, a Nigerian and a Liberian were among them.
To them Minneapolis remained friendly as they could roam the street or undertake undocumented work without fear of law enforcement people, either on fiscal grounds or security grounds, as they were, all, no exception, running away from their domestic bases to find relative peace in Minneapolis like Floyd did, also, from Houston. Here, again African-American men running away from their homes while Caucasian ladies are the ones running away from their homes.
My take is that George Floyd could have been saved if female cops were the ones who handled him just like the female workers barking at the men in the makeshift sleeping arena. Though they wore security dress but I observed that the dress was not like that of Minneapolis cops’ dress. And, for what about George Floyd death, to say just $20 offence?
Furthermore, Minneapolis still sounds friendly as it is endowed with great schools for the teens, great hospitals and as well as great firing or gun-shooting range, for teens’ training. Still, it is rare to hear sounds of police crime vans’ alarms as you hear it almost in minutes in New York, or out of the 2000 children that go missing everyday in USA with Minneapolis’ neighbour, Chicago, picking the highest number. Chicago in Illinois and Minneapolis in Minnesota could be seen as the sampling cities that could decide the fate of Trump; rough and calm respectively. Chicago is where Obama came from to be president, and it is very rough; and it is a neighbour to Minneapolis. Minnesota is the ‘new normal’ Trump expects of USA with more of the Nordic and German migrants there, with about 1/5 of African-Americans like the Somalian workers who depend on the fight the joint AOC-Omar-far left Democrats are waging on their behalf as if barking at Trump like the women were barking at the men to behave well in the sleeping arena.
The wonders of USA are like that, as again, suddenly, Trump elevates African-America to the top most position of the Air-Force and it says more of the wonders of USA as if the new normal is “let them bark as long as no one pushes Trump to return to the old domestic home – that is, Obama era. In deed, it matters to the rest of the world where the push and pull could lead to. Like the British people would want the French to know in their dichotomous relationship; honni soit qui mal y pense. (If you think evil of it, you are to be ashamed at the end). Minneapolis still remains friendly.
Ariole is Professor of French and francophone Studies, University of Lagos