Names of people killed by police written on the street where George Floyd died.

Ruth Richardson: A Story I need You to Hear

Ruth Richardson is a state legislator in the next town over. I’d vote for her if I could, but she’s not in my district. I’d vote for her because she is a giant of strength and conviction.

In the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, she shared a very personal story that I need everyone to hear. It gets at the heart of how things are different for Black people in America.

Richardson had to tell her Black son, Shawn, not to go for a run in the neighborhood: “I had to tell my little boy that you can’t run in our neighborhood.”

That’s an overreaction, right? Before you dismiss this, listen to Richardson’s story. Because it wasn’t an overreaction. She was right.

Once, when he was 15, Shawn broke her rules. He went running outside.

A white woman drove in front of him. She let down her window and asked, “Did you just steal from that store? Is that why you’re running?”

Shawn shrugs this off:

“If I can’t run in the neighborhood, I can run on a track or something, you know?” he says. “It’s not the end of the world.”

Ruth responds:

“It is the end of the world. Because if you can’t run in our neighborhood, if you can’t walk out into the world and just be seen as a 17-year-old boy who loves to run, there’s something deeply wrong with that.”

I need you to understand that this is the insidious racism we face in America. A kid can’t go for a run without facing racism (Or worse: Look at Ahmaud Arbery).

In the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, Rep. Ruth Richardson spoke at the Minnesota legislature in favor of the Minnesota Police Accountability Act, a series of steps to hold the police more accountable. Things like banning choke holds, creating a duty to intercede, prohibiting warrior-style training, etc. The measure passed the DFL-controlled House but failed in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Here’s what Rep. Richardson said in support of the bill:

Members, I’m exhausted. I’m tired and I know that I’m not alone. Our communities are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We are tired of being traumatized by viral videos, like the one I saw just the other night of the Atlanta police officer kicking Rayshard Brooks as he lay on the ground dying after being shot in the back. We’re tired of the inaction. We’re tired of excuses. And we’re tired of being ignored. And most of all, we are tired of burying our murdered family members. This bill is the product of listening to people who are closest to the pain of this issue. … The world is watching and I will be voting yes tonight.

I encourage you can watch the House floor session video (skip ahead to about 6:26:00) and hear Richardson speak these words. Because you can hear the anguish in her voice. You can hear the exhaustion.

And when she says “we are tired of burying our murdered family members,” she’s not talking about the general ‘we’ or even the Black community in general—though it’s true for both. She’s talking about her cousin:

When Richardson was 19, she says a police officer shot and killed her cousin in St. Paul. The police report of the incident says he was shot in the chest, Richardson says. Her mom, who was there, told her the man was shot in the back. He was running for his life. (NPR)

I’m grateful to Ruth Richardson for sharing her story. That can’t be easy. I’m also thankful that she’s a voice in the Minnesota legislature. One tiny way we can help is by donating to Ruth Richardson’s re-election campaign and help counteract the flood of hateful emails she regularly receives.

Let’s listen to the voices of our Black neighbors, recognize the racism in our society, and begin to dismantle the systems that allow it, wherever it may exist, in our laws or in our hearts.

One thought on “Ruth Richardson: A Story I need You to Hear”

  1. I read Richardson’s story recently, then just read your focus of her. Wonderful! I only met her once but have seen and heard her, and she’s a dynamo (not just on race issues, but especially those lately). Thanks for the story on her!

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