On the street: ‘We need white people [at protests]. We can protect black voices.’

Olivia Randgaard
Olivia Randgaard. 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.

Olivia Randgaard

Painting the side of Calhoun Square with the faces of black people killed by police, Wednesday, June 3

I’m in eighth grade at Field, but I’m going to PiM [a Hopkins arts high school] next year. 

I’ve been thinking about ways to elevate the voices of people of color, because as a white person I feel like I need to let them speak. But I also want to do my part.

I think there’s mixed messaging with Minnesota Nice — that we’re so liberal. But our police systems don’t show that. We’re just as corrupt as many other states. It’s not working anymore — it never worked. 

I want to see police work for all people. I know some people are saying, “Get rid of the police.” I understand that and think we should get rid of the current police. But I think we need to reform and change so systems can work for everyone and not just white people.

Today we’re painting murals in Uptown. We were painting Black Lives Matter on the Victoria’s Secret building, but someone told us to paint happy messages so we left. They didn’t want any Black Lives Matter or social justice. We want to have our actual voices and say things that actually matter. 

Of course we need to uplift people, but we need to show George Floyd’s face. A lot of people around me, like my white neighbors, they don’t have to look because it doesn’t affect them. We need to let them see. It’s just to pay respect as well.

I’ve been protesting, though I haven’t gone to one with pepper spray. I think the importance is that we need white people there. We can protect black voices. It’s not about us; it’s about protecting those voices. 

I’ve also done some protest cleanup with my mom, and I have been dropping food in a neighborhood by Lake Street that’s kind of a food desert right now. 

Some people only started talking about these things when neighborhoods got destroyed — of course that’s horrible; we helped clean it up — but the violence started before this man was unjustly killed. The violence didn’t just start; it’s been going on for hundreds of years. 

There’s tons of stuff white people can do. Donate, sign petitions. Talk to your friends of color — don’t make them educate you, educate yourself. We have the resources to read and learn ourselves, so we need to do that.

My school is pretty white. There’s a lot of segregation, the way the schools are set up. I follow a lot of people online, like Rachel Cargle and Black Visions Collective, who I think are the right voices. Rachel Cargle talks about dealing with white supremacy and white nationalism and also about black feminism. I also try to follow a lot of smaller activists, mostly on Instagram. I’m not allowed on Twitter.