George Floyd’s May 2020 death under Derek Chauvin’s knee cast a harsh spotlight on the Twin Cities, exposing what people of color have long complained about — the region’s troubled history with race and policing, including several high-profile police killings of Black men, and a state that boasts some of the nation’s deepest racial disparities between whites and Blacks, including in housing and income. And in the days after Floyd’s murder, White politicians grappled with how a state known for its progressive politics and economic opportunity could become the ugly epicenter of an reckoning on race and justice. Gov. Tim Walz ascribed racial disparities to “small hidden racisms” for which the “ultimate end ... is the ability to believe you can murder a Black man in public.”
Two years later, many Black Minneapolis residents say little has changed since Floyd’s killing. The signs that featured images of Floyd’s face or demanded justice for his death have vanished from yards, even as many of the same tensions over race, policing and inequality linger. While many believe the commitment for change is still there, some question the urgency. “Although everybody’s heart seems to be in the right place, their actions are not matching up as fast. … We’re dealing with big, deep cultural issues, systematic issues that have built up for hundreds of years and that takes time,” said PJ Hill, vice chair of the Minneapolis NAACP. “You worry about the time that it is taking and whether we are missing a moment.” While Chauvin is serving a 22½-year murder sentence and the three other officers at the scene were convicted in February on federal civil rights charges, a state investigation found the Minneapolis Police Department continues to engage in racially discriminatory policing — targeting and using force on Black people at a higher rate than Whites even though Blacks make up just 19 percent of the population. Since Floyd’s death, two other Black men have been killed by police, inflaming the trauma of a city that remains on edge.