Professor Michael Lansing recently appeared on TPT Almanac, where he and Dr. Yohuru Williams discussed their project on the history of policing, “Overpoliced & Underprotected in MSP.”
This public history project combines archival research, oral histories, and the insights of scholars to engage and learn from local communities—with special attention to how people of color have experienced policing in the Twin Cities.
“The idea is that we as historians take our expertise and try to think about how we can do public-facing work that contributes to community conversations,” said Lansing. “That’s what “Overpoliced & Underprotected in MSP” is really all about. We’re interested in recovering, collecting, and sharing stories of unjust policing, as well as forms of community resistance to unjust policing, with the hope that it makes this contribution to the very important community conversations that are happening right now about public safety.”
“We’re fond of saying that history doesn’t repeat itself, it echoes,” said Williams, who is a professor of history and director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas. “What you’re seeing in something like the [George] Floyd murder, the inability to hold officers accountable, are the echoes of the past. If we go back and recover that history, we have a basis to talk about what real change would look like—not simply professionalization, but actual reform, and a move from policing to public safety.”
In addition to the project website and a documentary short produced last year with TPT, Lansing and Williams are working on an oral history project, planning public events, and continuing to gather community stories. The project will culminate in an archive held at a local institution.