Why Whites are joining the fight against police violence in much greater numbers

Analise Pruni/MSR News Charli Donchetz with her dog Indie

Minneapolis has become the rising tide in a movement that is bringing thousands of new faces to the movement opposing police violence. Many of those faces are White.

Over the weekend there were passionate marches through downtown Minneapolis, with powerful speakers rallying the crowds. The predominantly White crowd begged the question, “Why are so many White people joining this movement?”

“I think the astounding number of White people out here is because on a human level, rather than a race level, they realize that this is absolutely outrageous and terrible and horrific and something needs to change,” said 22-year-old Black college student Alex Chapman, who came from Rapid City, South Dakota to join in the protests for two weeks. He said that although he had a blessed childhood, “There is a part of my childhood that makes me understand the pain of looking different and being in a system that sometimes doesn’t reward that, and oftentimes punishes that.”

“Black people have been pushing that movement forward for as long as we’ve been in this country,” Chapman said, “because we’re the ones who have to live it and know that pain. The outrage is what you see with these thousands of people in the streets of Minneapolis and millions of people around America.”

Analise Pruni/MSR News Alex Chapman

Chapman attributes a large part of the uprising to social media. “I think regardless if you’re White, Black, Asian, Native American, whatever you may be, that [the video of Floyd’s killing] is going to make you upset,” he said. “When he called for his own mother, every single mother in America felt that, every single mother in the world felt that.”

Boni Njenga, who is running for District 5 Hennepin County Commissioner, attended Thursday’s rally. A Kenyan American who has been in Minneapolis for 17 years, he wanted to stand with his community.

“This could happen to anybody, and as a person of color I have to give support because it could’ve been me,” Njenga said. He also attributed the surge of White people joining the movement to emotional responses to the video.

“The eight-minute video showed a guy 46 years old calling for his mom, and you have got to be someone who doesn’t have a heart to not have those feelings. Most times people don’t get to see it, they get to hear about it. Now seeing it happen…

“It’s a new era, of the web. We get to expose what happens.”

Locals Kentrell Gaulden and Isaac Furey came to march in solidarity. “After a couple weeks since the riots, I think the White people that came out today truly showed that they were on our side, at least most of them,” Gaulden said. “Not every White person is the same. A lot of people want what we do, just fighting for what’s right.

“I think it’s probably because this isn’t as much of a race issue. It’s more about a community versus injustice, and so everybody’s included in that community no matter what ethnicity you are. If you want to stand up against injustice, this is how you do it,” explained Furey.

Analise Pruni/MSR News Eric Prizzia

Tony Seals and Kirstin Davids drove from south of Minneapolis with their three children to join the rally. They came to teach their kids about the importance of protesting for George Floyd.

Davis said they brought the kids to “include them in part of their history, let them know at a young age to stand up for what they believe in and to not be afraid.” She also attributed the rise in support to social media. 

“I think that with technology and cell phone use right now, a lot of people can’t deny what’s going on anymore. I am very proud of all of the White community and Latino and Native Americans, all of those that are standing up for the Black community because it is important.”

Seals said that Floyd’s killing being in Minneapolis, so close to home, has sparked a broad community response. “I believe this time is just different. Seeing the raw footage of what happened, I think enough is enough and the world wants to be unified deep down, but we have some things to change before we get there.”

Delena Walker, who is American Indian, said that the “obvious” thing brought her out to protest—the color of her skin. “Our community has suffered greatly and enough is enough.

“I think it’s that they [White people] are to the point where they’re tired. We have to understand when [racism] is going on it’s a reflection of them. We don’t want our children to think that everybody in the White community perceives us that way, so we don’t look at them and treat them like the elites of this country.”

Charli Donchetz and her dog Indie came from Savage, Minnesota to join the fight, learn more about the movement, and help to bring that awareness to the suburbs. 

“I think that White people are disgusted by the reality of the injustice in Minneapolis,” Donchetz said. “We’re so quick to think that Minneapolis and Minnesota in general is such a liberal and progressive state despite being in the Midwest, and I think that this has really proven that that’s not the case.”

“There’s tons of injustice that needs to be fought,” she added. “We need to do better.” 

Eric Prizzia, who traveled here from Oregon, reflected on young people’s role in the movement. “I don’t know why it’s taken White people so long to get out and be more vocal,” he said.

“I’d like to think that’s just where the times are progressing with all the young people coming up who are in tune with the issues. I think that the White crowd will continue to get bigger. Also, I think people are seeing past race, and anytime anyone dies in this brutal of a fashion I think it resonates with everybody.”

Ernest “M” lives in the Minneapolis area and believes inequalities in the Black community mean inequalities in every community. Asked what sparked such widespread outrage, he said, “I think it was the clarity of the way that it [Floyd’s killing] happened.

“It was inexcusable. I work security, and there’s no way I would sit on anybody for eight minutes, especially if I had them in handcuffs and all that,” Ernest said. 

“If you’re a White woman, you’re going to see it affect you. If I don’t get equality in the streets as a Black man, you’re not going to get it in the workplace. It’s an understanding that once equality happens for us, it happens for everybody everywhere.”