A father stood last summer before a Mankato crowd gathered in a church to hear of local incidents of racism and told of how his black son was stopped in North Mankato and put on the ground by a police officer during a routine license check.
But the incident went un-reported.
The Free Press urged state courts last fall to adopt an 11-minute racial bias video for jurors that is used in federal courts in Minnesota. Nothing was done.
In reaction to an incident of racist graffiti last year at Mankato West High School the greater Mankato community called on community leaders last October to sign a pledge to embrace diversity and inclusion and take action in whatever small way to be proactive. That was progress.
But the context of the George Floyd killing by Minneapolis police should now give us all ample opportunity to take action, take responsibility and be accountable to that pledge many community leaders, including those at The Free Press, took last fall.
Some may have answered by joining the peaceful protests in Mankato and St. Peter over the last week that drew thousands of people calling for justice in the Floyd case. Others may have donated to the causes in Twin City neighborhoods that were devastated by looting and rioting.
But these are only small steps we can all take. The bigger steps require more time and effort. As a group of Hamline University criminal justice experts wrote in these pages a few days ago, Minnesota can do things almost immediately to change the system to which Floyd fell victim.
The professors argued we can change police training, use of force laws, reform the governing board for police training and mitigate the uneven power of police unions. All are worthy actions we endorse.
We must get back to reforming police department cultures, even in Mankato and North Mankato, where leaders have described progress on race equity efforts as “very slow.” Courts should be able to take small steps, like adopting a racial bias video to show juries.
Leaders at Minnesota State University, some of whom who signed the pledge, must also begin to take action. The state university system trains 86 percent of the law enforcement officers in the state. One graduate, Geronimo Yanez, went to trial for killing Philando Castile and was acquitted in an egregious case of police misconduct two years ago.
The university must tell the larger Minnesota community what its law enforcement program is doing to make sure cases like Castile and Floyd and others, as Gov. Tim Walz says, “never happen again.”
A pledge means nothing without action.