“We are literally all George”: St. Paul’s mayor reflects on generations of pain among African Americans

That might be an unlikely point of view for a black boy growing up in a big city, but Carter had a good reason – his father was one of St. Paul’s first African-Americans in the police force.

“He became a police officer in the early ’70s after a lawsuit demanding the desegregation of the St. Paul Police Department. And so he was part of a class of African-American officers who came in and they have stories that weren’t always free,” Carter recalled.

Initially, Carter said, some of his father’s white colleagues forcibly told him they would not support him, “no matter what happened,” because he was black.

A few four decades later Carter broke his own racial barrier, becoming the first African-American mayor of St. Louis. Paul in 2018 – a distinction that now comes with an even greater and more complex responsibility as the Twin Cities erupt in pain and rage in the rapture of George Floyd’s death after a white police officer pressed his knee to his neck. Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, has been charged with second-degree murder, and three other officers at the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting.

“Our challenge to people is to be calm, but never patient. We are not asking people to sit aside and wait while we slowly and gradually prevent the tide of unarmed blacks and women who have been killed by police forces. We are fighting for change right now, for big and structural change right now, ”Carter told CNN in a virtual interview from City Hall.

Perspective as a black man has been racially profiled countless times

The 38-year-old black mayor’s life experience with law enforcement is severely limited to one as the son of a police officer. He said that he was attracted and stopped by the police countless times, precisely because of his skin color.

“I had a broken back light and I put a red ribbon on it. And the clerk pulled me up and explained to me that in the corner of the red bar you could see a little white stain and that was why he pulled me,” Carter recalled.

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“Even as a city council member, there were times when I would retire. And people would say, ‘Why didn’t you tell them who you were?’ “And my answer is: if I have to be a member of the city council, if I have to be mayor, if I have to be the son of a police officer, to be treated only with basic human dignity and not to be stopped when I respect all laws, maybe it’s in the first place okay problem, ”he added.

“You’re starting to feel like this isn’t a coincidence. This is something very specific about who I am and what I look like. It can very easily create a wide gap between me as a resident, as a young black man growing up in this. The community and officials I rely on. to help keep me safe. “

When his home broke into a few years ago, the first call was to the police.

“I came home and found that some stranger was in my bedroom. That some stranger was in my house, some stranger went through my things and took very personal things from my house. And at that point we called the police and that is the paradox that we need these officers, we need them as much as anyone.We need officers who recognize our humanity, who understand our communities, who will show up and help.And the paradox is in how much I need a good cop , a good police department I can trust, ”Carter said.

The pain of his own family in St. Paul penetrates deeply

Carter, who won the mayoral race on a crowded field in 2017, is a proud fourth-generation resident of St. Paul’s, but his family suffered a lot of pain there because of skin color.

“When I say I love this city. It’s not like a new kind of love where I have a starry eye and I think everything is perfect. It’s more than knowing how your morning breath smells like the kind of love that can be built over time,” Carter said .

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His grandparents owned more than half a dozen business estates in the so-called The Rondo neighborhood, which was rooted to make way for the highway.

“Members of our community got a dollar bill for their properties. They kicked them out of those facilities, those properties were bulldozed to them,” Carter explained.

African Americans in St. Louis Paul is not the only community to have this happen – highways have been built across black neighborhoods in cities across the country, from Detroit to Oakland.

“According to our family’s story, the house burned down as a fire service drill,” Carter said.

“When we see people like George Floyd, losing their lives in a horrible, haunting occasional way we saw in that video, when my father remembers how their family moved old Rondo away and can remember the fire department burning in his mother’s home as an exercise When we have that incredible wealth as a nation that is indisputably focused and rooted in that evil historical institution of slavery, it was the work of my ancestors, but we have very limited access to those same riches that that institution created, ”he added.

A heartfelt remark by his 12-year-old daughter

Carter said he was struggling with what to say to his six children. But his 12-year-old daughter came to him with her own sober perspective of what happened to Floyd.

“She said she didn’t think anyone should be surprised by what happened last week,” Carter recalled emotionally, admitting it broke his heart.

“Yes. How could he not? And I asked her,” Why would he say that? “And she said, ‘Because if we see we’re being killed over and over and over again in these videos and it seems to be getting worse for everyone,'” she said, “people have to do something.”

He said he took the opportunity to tell his daughter what he was trying to say to all the residents of the city he was chosen to serve.

We just talked about this concept that we share with people; peace, but never patience. To say, “Yes, you’re right, we have to do something” and it’s really understandable that people are as angry as they are, that people are just as traumatized as and that people are just as impatient as those with those systems, ”Carter said.

Carter explained the importance of directing frustration and anger at stopping systemic racism, inequality, and racial differences.

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“And we had a conversation about the fact that we have the opportunity to channel that energy, this frustration, this anger to destroy not our neighboring institutions, but to destroy the systemic racism, all the inequalities and inequalities we are talking about ad nauseum. And certainly all the obstacles that are written down into our laws, into our court precedents, and certainly into police union agreements that make it so difficult to hold someone accountable when black life is misunderstood. ”He said.

“We’re literally all George”

Carter’s grandfather – the first Melvin Carter – was a Navy veteran who spent most of his life as a railroad carrier. But people didn’t call him Melvin or Mr. Carter, they called him George. That’s what all blacks were called.

“As a Pullman carrier, it didn’t really matter what your name was and how much experience you had, or what kind you had. Everyone’s name was George,” Carter said.

This was followed by a 2002 film, “10,000 Black People Named George,” which was chronic to this degrading phenomenon.

In many ways he said little had changed for blacks.

“I was thinking today about the fact that murder, the murder of George Floyd, I think it’s so painful for us and so personal, because for every black man in America, whether you’re a lawyer or an architect, an accountant or a mayor, we know there aren’t a lot of credentials. “There are no achievements. There is no money that could change the fact that we are literally all George,” Carter said.

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