Black History Month carries a new reality for all of us in the wake of George Floyd’s death this past summer.
His death at the hands of Minneapolis police, for all the world to see on live video, finally added shock value to the reality of racism and got the rest of us to pay attention. That’s good.
But there’s nothing good about his death and the dark injustice that once again becomes a burden on the Black community. Experts say injustice, particularly racial injustice, can have a long-lasting, even traumatic effect on an entire culture.
So white people have an obligation to get a clue. Black History Month should be more of a Black Reality Month. While we can honor the many underappreciated contributions of Blacks throughout our history, we also have to understand Black reality in our community and the world.
But because there are barriers between white and Black understanding, through tribalism, housing and culture, it’s difficult for us to just begin to understand how Black people in our community live because of geography. They’re not often neighbors.
There is a way for us to begin to understand the Black reality in Mankato. Former Mankato resident Mason Bultje and his mother, Laura Riness, have developed with others a series of videos called “Amplify Black Voices.” Local residents talk about their local experience being Black.
On one video Black community members talk about “microaggression,” a kind of subtle racism, and another video covers “overt racism.” Another offers insights into “Growing up Black” in Mankato and systemic racism.
The program also has been supported by the Greater Mankato Diversity Council, which helped the YouTube videos get more exposure. The Minnesota State University African American Affairs department, the YWCA and the NAACP are also sponsoring the project.
Bultje notes he felt alone as a young Black person growing up in Mankato, and that many people believe that racism is more of an urban problem. That perception must change.
We urge all Mankato area residents to view the 15 minute videos as the start of a deeper understanding of racism in our community. The stories of these community members will be eye opening and can lead us to act in ways to provide a more racially diverse and just community.