This Morning, I Saw a Man Get Tased

(CW: police violence)

This morning, I saw a man get tased.

I saw a Black man get tased.

I saw a Black man wearing red get tased.

I saw a Black man wearing red get tased by the Minneapolis Police Department.

I saw a Black man wearing red get tased by the Minneapolis Police department for shoplifting groceries.

I saw a Black man wearing red get tased by the Minneapolis Police Department for shoplifting groceries during a global pandemic.

I saw a Black man wearing red get tased by the Minneapolis Police Department for shoplifting groceries during a global pandemic, during which the government has only provided $1,200 in 6 months.

I saw a Black man wearing red get tased by the Minneapolis Police Department for shoplifting groceries during a global pandemic, during which the government has only provided $1,200 in 6 months, which amounts to less than $7 per day.

This happened next door to my 3-month-old son’s daycare.
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I am one block away, I see a Black man get up from sitting on the curb, surrounded by police. He pulls away. I hear a pop. He crumples. Then 5 or 6 officers are on him, cuffing him. Kneeling and pressing on limbs, putting him on a gurney, strapping him down, pressing his head down. I don’t hear him make a sound. I see the wires from the taser. I know the pop was too quiet to be a gunshot, but the visual is jarringly similar.

I only film a minute of it, after the tasing, after he is already on the gurney. Because I don’t press record correctly in my hurry to get my phone out.

I hold my son in my arms while I film. I say we live in a police state to him. I say we need other people, not police to respond when someone is having a mental health crisis. When someone is unarmed and has committed a nonviolent crime. When someone is trying to feed themselves.

I count the squad cars. It takes me too long, because I am shaking. I stop at 5. Pause. There are 6.

They put him in an ambulance. I stop filming. I put my son in his stroller. He cries. I say, now we will pray.  I wish I knew the man’s name. I walk to the grocery store.

The employees are talking about the man. He pretends to be crazy they say, to get away with it. He got tased they say in grimly satisfied tones. The white store managers had been standing at the end of the block where he got tased. When I leave the store, they are standing by the entrance, talking to another white store manager.

No one making decisions about any of this is Black. This man probably had white teachers in school. And now, when he’s trying to figure out how to feed himself, it’s white store managers and white cops. And his community can’t build social, political, or economic power, such that, when he’s out of food, someone sees him and sees his humanity, and says, what do you need to be able to eat with dignity?

I find somewhere to sit and nurse my son before daycare, across from an apartment building. Several tenants go in and out while he eats. They are all Black. Why aren’t the store managers Black? Do they live within a block of the store? A mile? Two miles? I don’t think so.

My son is done eating. I walk us back to the daycare. All the squad cars are gone. On the stoop, there are two packages of fish from the grocery store. They tased a man and didn’t return the stolen goods to the store. They left them to spoil in the sun.

In this police state, nobody wins.

I drop my son off at daycare. I walk home. I see the man wearing red seize and crumple over and over in my mind. I cry. Seize. Crumple. Cry. Seize. Crumple. Cry.

My rage starts to boil. We’re lucky it’s only protests and looting.
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A few weeks ago, my city council member, Lisa Goodman, sent out a newsletter saying that people feel unsafe downtown, condemning the looting that occurred after a man’s public suicide was mistaken for another police killing, and not condemning the MPD for eroding trust to the point that it was reasonable to believe they had shot and killed another Black man.

The only violence I saw today was perpetrated by the police. One of the only times I feel unsafe downtown is when I see the police interacting with citizens. I don’t like all my neighbors. Some of them are rude and stinky and sexist. Some of them walk three-wide on the sidewalk and don’t make room for anyone else. It’s annoying, but not unsafe.

Cars that don’t yield for pedestrians are unsafe. Cyclists and scooterists who use the sidewalk are unsafe. Police are unsafe.
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A friend encouraged me to write down how I imagine this should have gone differently. So here are my what ifs:

What if the store manager had a conversation with the man and said, ”I know it’s tough. I know you need food. How can I help you get the food you need and not steal it?”

What if the city had unarmed civil servants and social workers who could be called, instead of armed police, who would connect this man with services to get his needs met?

What if the store managers were Black and lived in the community, so that they recognized that they were investing in the whole community, not just paying customers?

What if food was a public good and decommodified?

What if this was a production of Les Miserables? What if this man was Jean Valjean?

What if society took its metaphorical and physical boot off of the necks of Black people?

Croissants are a Sham and Other Things I Believe Without Evidence

When I moved to France for a year, I had a splendid going away party, for which I attempted to order a large number of croissants from a local bakery. The baker was lovely, but he said he didn’t make croissants in his bakery, because they are hard; they require a lot of time and energy, and don’t always come out very well. Since he was not going to make his own, he didn’t want to sell them. He said the bakeries in the area that did serve croissants almost all purchased their dough from a single source and passed it off as their own–in other words, I’d do just as well buying grocery store croissants as going to any bakery in the area. An industrial bakery was making pretty good (or, at least, extremely consistent) puff pastry, selling it to smaller bakeries, and we all got to eat pretty good croissants as a result.

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A photo of me at my Bon Voyage. Croissants not pictured. I believe they came from our local Rainbow, RIP.

I can’t say I have a reason to disbelieve this information, but it was passed off to me twelve years ago (and memory is finicky), and I have not done any research whatsoever to verify this claim. However, every time I have a sub-par croissant in the Twin Cities, I say to myself, “They must make their own dough.” Also, every time I have a perfect, to a T, honest to goodness, French croissant in the Twin Cities (I have only ever had one at Patisserie 46), I say to myself, “They must make their own dough.”

I sometimes make similar assumptions based on the quality of croissants in other cities, guessing that the croissant racket it more or less the same throughout the country.

I did defer to an expert on this subject for the purpose of this post, and a former Patisserie 46 employee says that they do make their own croissant dough, further enforcing my bias.

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In preparation for my honeymoon, I messaged my host families that I would be visiting, and they asked me what food I wanted to eat. I told them I wanted Belcastel bread, Marcillac wine, and Aligot.

I have a very clear idea of this bread. It comes from a gigantic, round loaf, maybe 2 feet in diameter. I remember my host dad, Pascal, sending me into a bakery to order it on more than one occasion–instructing me on how to order just a section of it, instead of the entire, giant loaf. The crust is so dark, it is nearly black, and thick; thicker than any crust you’d see in the United States. The middle is spongy and nutty in scent and flavor. I imagined its size was due the medieval practice of villages having one communal oven. If you have to share the oven, why not just make one loaf and share it?

The bread Belcastel does not exist. There may be such a bread, as I have described, but it is not called Belcastel. There is no bread, nor any other food (not even wine), in France (or anywhere else) called Belcastel. There is a town by that name, in France, near where I lived.

Memory is finicky.

It appears I may have to abandon my belief that my favorite French bread is called Belcastel. Then again, the bread my host sister found, while similar, was not two feet in diameter and didn’t taste as good as I had remembered. So maybe my favorite French bread is but a memory, and I can accurately say, that Belcastel is still my favorite.

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At summer camp, a counselor once said that mosquitoes are attracted to people who eat bananas more than people who don’t. Friends, I no longer eat bananas. Also, I don’t like bananas, but like, what if she was right? I’m really avoiding two evils, the taste and texture of bananas and mosquito bites. If I do eat a banana, I eat it only when the last mosquito of the summer is dead, and the first mosquito of spring has yet to hatch.

This is convenient-to-believe pseudo-science, rather than something I wholeheartedly believe, but that doesn’t prevent me from acting on it and, occasionally, sharing it with others, despite doing so with caveats, like this.

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We make assumptions and believe things all the time with little to no evidence. While the word of the baker (someone who is probably an authority on the industry he works in) can be presumed to be reasonably correct, my memory of it, or even initial understanding, may be flawed to the point of misrepresenting it to myself and others over the course of more than a decade now. How many people have I told that Belcastel is my favorite French bread? Dozens. While I now understand why, even 12 years ago, my host brother Julien gave me a quizzical look when I told him that was the best bread, I never investigated further at the time. I told myself that I had pronounced it wrong or that it was not very common, but never-ever had I imagined that I simply got the name wrong. Had I never returned to France, I could have gone on wrongly telling everyone about a bread that didn’t exist.

These are inconsequential examples, amusing, even. At worst, they misattribute the work of a few dedicated bakers in the Twin Cities Metro Area, deprive me of a source of potassium, and make me look silly in front of my friends. There are a lot of other things we believe, spread, and act on that are of greater consequence. They might malign entire continents, races, genders, etc. They lead to job discrimination, alienation, and even cruelty from others.

I was able to challenge my belief about Belcastel, because I talked to some of the only people on the planet who would know for sure, a few people in France who live near the town of Belcastel. It’s a lot easier to tell if your socio-political convictions are true–things that are measured regularly, to a great depth. Use google. Read broadly. Meet new people. Ask yourself “does this opinion hurt someone in power or someone disenfranchised?” The answer will tell you a lot about how true it is as well as how harmful or harmless it could be.

Also, eat your bananas.

Hipster Baby Names that are Also Cities in Minnesota

Finding that perfect name for your baby takes some effort. You take into consideration family names, fictional characters you’ve loved since childhood, even geography, religion, whichever names your friends haven’t used yet. And of course you have to consider what sounds good and expresses the unique relationship that created your bundle of joy. You are unique and so is your baby. You remember the days of too many Samanthas, Katies, and Jessicas in every class, when every 6th boy was named Josh, and you know we must forsake such practices so that your child knows from day one who they are.

Well, Minnesota has a solution for you. I give you the top Hipster Baby Names that are Also Cities in Minnesota, ranked:

  1. Chaska
    She wants none of your shit today. She knows exactly who she is and what she wants, and she’s not afraid to tell you that carrots are gross and mommy looks tired.
  2. Edina
    Sweetness incarnate. Everyone she ever meets will ask her where she’s from, and most won’t believe the answer.
  3. Anoka
    Anoka knows how to get woke-a.
  4. Afton
    Sweet summer child, wind, and wisp, Afton is a poet, a sensitive soul, who probably won’t publish anything but will spend their free time at local poetry workshops working on purple prose. Afton will use words like “stentorious” and “arbitrarily” incorrectly at the age of six.
  5. Eagan
    This baby is definitely wearing a bespoke onesie by six months.
  6. Blaine
    It’s almost Blake and almost Blaire but it isn’t quite either. Rest assured, your child will constantly smell like vanilla and the tears of the innocent.
  7. Duluth
    Boy or Girl, Duluth will love jumping in a pile of leaves in the fall and reading books on economic theory by flashlight in the closet.
  8. Albert Lea
    It’s almost a normal name, but those three extra letters are a real curveball, as will be your little slugger.
  9. Eveleth
    Not your grandma’s first name. But it could be, and that’s the point.
  10. Minneapolis
    Minne, for short, will have an ongoing complex about being named after a major city, but somebody’s got to break the ice. This complex will eventually lead to them going by their middle name or embracing Wicca.
  11. Hinkley
    Hinkley will always have a sophisticated rustic charm, leading to the establishment of the American version of a British, dying aristocracy. Hinkley will skip the glory days and go straight to defending the antiquated ways of wealthy country folk who have been on the land for generations.
  12. Hastings
    Typically a family name, young Hastings Phillips will often confuse his teachers as they attempt to call him Phil Hastings. Nonetheless, his name will always have a nice ring to it, dignified, said quickly, but never rushed.
  13. Hibbing
    Hibbing was born a child of the earth, and never gets over wearing overalls.
  14. Owatonna
    On second thought, Owatonna was an actual Sioux princess, so don’t name your child after her unless you are really, verifiably Sioux or someone who is Sioux has naming rights to your first born.
  15. Minnetonka
    Minnetonka means “great water,” so expect to change more than the usual number of diapers.

Honorable mentions that are a) actually people names or b) should be people names:

  1. Winona
  2. Bethel
  3. Mora
  4. Bemidji
  5. Cloquet
  6. Chanhassen
  7. Isanti
  8. Saint Paul (pronounced: sin pl)
  9. Zumbrota
  10. Welch (pronounce with a hard ch)
  11. Hopkins
  12. Mankato
  13. Mazeppa
  14. Eyota
  15. Walbo/Dalbo

Names that will make you child sound like a member of the British Aristocracy, but ironically. Every one of these kids has a pair of suspenders and no fewer than 4 tweed jackets by 12 months. You, as their parents, are obligated to end or begin your sentences with “my dear boy” when speaking to them, regardless of gender:

  1. Rochester
  2. Lanesboro
  3. Ostrander
  4. Brainerd
  5. Bloomington
  6. Woodbury
  7. Hazelton
  8. Winsted
  9. Blakeley
  10. Vermillion
  11. Lewiston
  12. Rushford
  13. Andover
  14. Brunswick
  15. Monticello

 

Next week: A list of hipster baby names that are also lakes in Minnesota.