On the street: ‘I would have imagined everyone in this community would support me as a black female’

Kaja Bingham. Photo by Zac Farber

George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer has placed the city’s history of racial inequity and white violence at the forefront of a global protest movement. The Southwest Journal has asked local residents to share their feelings and experiences. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Read all of our interviews here.

Kaja Bingham

At a protest blocking the intersection of 50th & Penn, shortly before curfew, Friday, May 29

I live in Linden Hills and have been out protesting the past three days. I think the past few days have been extremely painful to my community, and because I am able-bodied and healthy, I feel it’s my responsibility as a citizen of Minneapolis — and as someone who lives in this neighborhood especially — to use my voice to speak up. Silence is one of the worst things you can do.

Devastation is one of the main emotions I’ve been feeling. It’s everything with Floyd, the D.A. [Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, whose home was being picketed nearby] and the police. And I’ve been starting to realize that people in my community who I thought were allies are not. People have come out and been frustrated with either the protesting or rioting and not understanding the purpose, and that’s been hard to deal with. 

This isn’t new to our neighborhood, this isn’t new to America. The only thing that’s new is that it’s being recorded and posted to the internet for people to see. It’s been especially frustrating for people to be like, “This isn’t my city; my city isn’t like this normally.” No, it is like this. Minnesota is one of the worst areas of segregation. We just don’t acknowledge that.

As someone who plans to have kids, this is terrifying. I’m scared to bring humans into a world like this. I come out for the future generations and for us. 

[A white man in a black truck loudly accelerates toward protesters before pumping his breaks. He honks his horn, shouts “F— you” out his window and then continues through the intersection.]

I’m hoping these people who are driving through — it’s impossible to convey the black experience to people who are not willing to listen. I have never in my life seen this. In my perspective, I would have imagined everyone in this community would support me as a black female and would support other black residents. These little things right here make me shake. It’s so under the surface, which is concerning to me. People truly have these emotions and feelings, and they walk around with them and don’t share them. And you don’t really know who people are.

A lot of people don’t understand that the community in the 3rd Precinct is one of the worst for COVID cases, and that’s something we need to keep in mind. These protests where people are keeping their distance are productive. People need to stay safe but also participate in the dialogue happening in their communities. 

I want people to open their eyes and open their ears and acknowledge that this is reality, this is what’s going on. Understand you’re part of the problem if you’re not participating in the dialogue.