Friday, September 24, 2021

Michaels: Where Racism Happens

The good news: The Minnesota Department of Human Rights determined that the Brooklyn Center Police Department and Michaels (the craft store) discriminated against a Black teenager who tried to apply for a job. (Star Tribune report.)

The bad news: It took MDHR more than two years (!) to reach that conclusion even though there was a pile of evidence.

In March 2019, a Black 16-year-old boy tried to apply for a job at a suburban Minneapolis Michaels store. The white woman manager — who had previously racially profiled customers, according to other employees — asked him to leave the store and then called the police and reported him for behavior he did not commit (store cameras showed). He left voluntarily, but then came back to complain about his treatment. He was barred from reentering. Some yelling ensued from both sides. The manager called 911 again and lied to the police once more.

Three white cops arrived and found the boy in a different store. He put his hands in the air. Two of the three cops threw the 100-pound kid face down on the ground, pulled him by his hair, and otherwise manhandled him before handcuffing him. The boy pleaded with them not to kill them, saying, "I want to grow up." He was charged with multiple B.S. charges.

The cops said he "aggressively resisted arrest." At least one of the cops' reports said they told him to put his hands behind his back. Body camera footage shows that neither claim is true, and that the boy was clearly afraid. The store camera footage shows the manager's representations of his behavior are all lies.

According to the Pioneer Press story on the case,

The investigation found that the actions of the officers were "so unreasonable that race discrimination is the only likely explanation of their behavior."

Readers not from here may have forgotten that Brooklyn Center is the same suburb where Officer Kimberly Potter shot and killed Daunte Wright in an unneeded traffic stop in April 2021, just as Darrin Chauvin was on trial for killing George Floyd in Minneapolis. It's also the same suburb where Sinthanouxay Khottavongsa was killed by jeering cops at a laundromat in 2015. (Wright and Khottavongsa were not the only ones: There were four other men killed by Brooklyn Center police since 2012.)

So beyond the nationwide problem of police brutality against Black people, that explains why the teenager in the Michaels case feared for his life at the hands of Brooklyn Center cops particularly.

What is not explained in any of this is why it took two years for MDHR to reach the obvious conclusions it finally did.

Why do blatant human rights violations like this take this long to be made even a little bit right, and what does this process mean for people who don't have video evidence of every moment? Why is it only white people who are believed? (Rhetorical question.)

As a final insult, the Michaels chain, rather than apologizing in the face of this pile evidence, says in the Pioneer Press story that it "disagrees with the findings and plans to appeal. 'We take any claim of discrimination very seriously'" (not)!

An appeal is obviously a strategy they're using because they know they face a well-deserved civil suit. They will lose, and they should face a boycott. 

Between this and the travesty of the bible-thumping, artifact-stealing Hobby Lobbyists, where are we to acquire our unneeded stuff these days?

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