What I’ve Seen

I’ve seen almost every single business across two cities boarded up. We drove from central Saint Paul to South Minneapolis. We had property in Minneapolis we needed to check up on. It took us through two mostly commercial areas. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to it, the boarding. So much so that the ones that weren’t boarded, were almost shocking. You think, “How could someone be so unconcerned and irresponsible?” The same way just days ago you were thinking about those who were unmasked.

I’ve seen seed fluff from the dogwood trees floating aimlessly under a partly cloudy sky. Directionless. No plan besides landing somewhere eventually and hoping it is fertile enough ground to plant roots and grow.

I’ve seen something painted on almost every board. Black Lives Matter! ACAB! BIPOC Owned! Justice for George Floyd! Please don’t burn! Kids Upstairs! “Roses are red. Violets are blue. Peace didn’t work. What else could we do?”

I’ve seen people who believe that words can save them.

I’ve seen far too many out of town plates. You try to catch a glance at the driver. What is an SUV from Utah doing here?  Male or Female driver? Is he Black or white? Note the plate number. Note the direction they’re going. Do they look OK? Because, we know. Then I feel guilty for profiling. Then, just as suddenly, the guilt fades as I realize it happens to Black folks every day. It’s happened to me.  It’s what the daily is for us. I’ve seen it.

I’ve seen the lilacs blooming and filling the air with fragrance when the wind shifts direction and the smoke from the ruins of smoldering buildings is blowing the other way.

I’ve seen neighbors helping businesses board up. I’ve been helping too. As we were boarding up a row of businesses in the neighborhood three pickup trucks with beds full of 2x4s and plywood sheets pull up. A burly young White guy jumps out of each one. They saw a post on social media about us asking for some help from anyone who could come. They were driving around trying to answer any call. Just good guys looking to do good things for good people they said. Those businesses were boarded in minutes. Beers and waters were shared (they had plenty). Elbows were bumped (were still in a pandemic). And four more businesses were (hopefully) saved.

I saw a beautiful mural of flowers on the boards of the wine shop I passed on the way home from the business I was boarding. It hadn’t been there on the way to there. From blank to beautiful in the same time it took to board up.

I’ve seen the press stifled, beat up, shot at, detained, and arrested. I’m reporting this from the United States.

I’ve seen neighbors collecting food and supplies from other neighbors to go help still more neighbors. Because here all strangers are neighbors in times like these.

I’ve seen people with brooms and mops and shovels and crowbars and garbage bags heading to clean up their neighborhood wherever there is cleaning up to do.

I’ve seen parents trying to help their children understand what’s going on. Trying to make sense of the senseless. Trying to explain the unexplainable.

I’ve seen people doing their best and failing and trying again.

I’ve seen the best of who we are. I’ve seen the worst of who we are. I’ve seen everyone in between.

This is what I’ve seen.