Stories on the long history of racism and police violence in the Midwest—and what to do about it
On Monday, Derek Chauvin, a police officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, restrained a man named George Floyd, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, and knelt there for nearly nine interminable minutes. The video, which ricocheted around social media, is horrific: Chauvin stares into the camera. Floyd cries out in pain and fear. More MPD officers stand off to the side, watching him die.
George Floyd was Black, but you already knew that. America has long, intertwining traditions of racist public policy and violence against Black people. In response, organizers have taken to the streets in Minneapolis, Columbus, Ohio, and elsewhere, facing off with police in riot gear. Four days later, Chauvin was arrested and charged with manslaughter and third degree murder. The president, meanwhile, has threatened to bring in the National Guard to shoot protestors.
To understand the contemporary moment, it’s important to consider both the histories of racism, disinvestment, and violence in the region, and the rich precedent for community organizing and direct action. We hope that the following stories, selected from among dozens of similar pieces over nearly seven years of writing and reporting at Belt, help to contextualize this moment and envision ways to build a more just, equitable future—a future in which George Floyd would still be alive.
Support independent, context-driven regional writing.
“Tired of Going to Funerals”: The 1972 National Black Political Convention in Gary
Commemorating Chicago’s Red Summer of 1919
Why Detroit ’67 Matters Now
Remembering Hough, Fifty Years Later
“Out of the Closets and Into the Streets”: Queer Resistance Beyond Stonewall
America’s History of Racist Violence is Not Just a Southern Issue
DEVELOPMENT AND INEQUALITY
The Legacy of Redlining in Rust Belt Cities
Development in Black and White: An interview with the author of Manufacturing Decline: How Racism and the Conservative Movement Crush the American Rust Belt
Beyond White Flight: What the History of One Cleveland Neighborhood Can Teach Us About Racism and Housing Inequality
The Young Patriots and the Fight for the Working Class in Uptown
Will Minneapolis’s Upper Harbor Terminal Project be Good for Its Neighbors?
POLICE VIOLENCE AND INCARCERATION
It’s Murder: The Case of Tamir Rice
The Rippling Effect of Baron Walker: A Dispatch From the Most Incarcerated ZIP Code in the Nation
Prison Gerrymandering and the Politics of Representation
How a Western Pennsylvania Police Shooting sparked a Political Movement
Scenes from the Department of Justice Investigation into the Cleveland Police Department
BEFORE AND AFTER GEORGE FLOYD
Protest and Power: Photos
What Happened—and is Happening—in Minneapolis
Before George Floyd There was David Cornelius Smith
A Street-Level Perspective on Kenosha Protests
BLACK TRAUMA, BLACK JOY
Unfertile Ground: On Minnesota, Toni Morrison, and Black Womanhood
Traveling While Black in Indiana
White Racist Aggression at the U. Michigan Game
Preserving Black Artists’ Legacies in Contemporary Pittsburgh
2014: A Poem from St. Louis
Liberation is a Long Haul: Lessons from Juneteenth
How to Win Reparations
Cleveland After Serial
Activism Then and Now: A Talk by Randy Cunningham
#NoCopAcademy and the Movement to Defund the Police
Picturing the End of Money Bail
The Future of Chicago is the Future of Us All ■
*This story has been updated to reflect that Chauvin has now been arrested and charged.
Cover image of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri after the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer. Photo by Jamelle Bouie via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
Belt Magazine is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. To support independent writing and journalism made by and for the Rust Belt and greater Midwest, make a donation to Belt Magazine, or become a member starting at just $5 a month.