I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said. “But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice.”*
Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed George Floyd last year, by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes was found guilty of all three charges brought against him today. And a lot of people around the world breathed a collective sigh of relief.
For all the progress that has been made in civil rights over the last 50 years, it is evident that so much more work lies ahead of us. Daunté Wright’s murder just days ago is a testament to that fact. The last four years under a Donald Trump presidency have, if anything, exemplified to great effect the ugliness of systemic racism and ignorance that continues to poison the United States of America to this day.
But many well-meaning folks were just not sure a jury would convict a white police officer of killing a black man—even now in 2021. They are not off base in thinking that.
The verdict today has given relief to the family of George Floyd, renewed hope that perhaps the trajectory of justice will now arc forward in the history of this country and race relations. But as Minnesota AG Ellison said, “justice implies true restoration” and if we all know one thing: we are not there yet.
But accountability is supremely important and as Ellison added, is the first step toward justice. We got that today. Accountability. Truth. Evidence. The defense could not find a leg to stand on in the face of the most damning witness there could have been: Darnella Frazier’s video. Had that courageous young woman not had the gumption to record this crime, which was witnessed by many, Derek Chauvin might have walked free and easy today.
Had that happened, God help us. Tonight would have been a night where the collective anguish and righteous indignation of Americans who are not blinded by racism would have exploded in a way no one needs right now. We breathe sighs of relief tonight that that anger has been quelled, however temporary. And we breathe a sigh of relief because the law was carried out and it was necessary.
But there was another life that was wasted today. Derek Chauvin’s actions have robbed him of his freedom and the life he will never regain. No one knows the true motive of the man’s heart the day he took the God-given breath of life from another human being. But he had a choice—as we always do—to be better. To do better. To offer mercy. In taking the life of another who was of no threat to him, Chauvin said no. And that’s on him.
George Floyd was not a perfect man. But whatever he was in the eyes of the people who knew him best, the public who both mourned him and questioned him, or the racists that will always cry, “they should have complied,” he didn’t deserve to die.
Nothing will bring Floyd back to the people who loved him. And now Derek Chauvin will live out his days under the very same denial of liberty and possibility as those he sought to fight when he was on the outside. On top. As a man in blue.
Lives can change when facing their days of reckoning. And maybe it will be so for Chauvin. We can only hope.
For hope is what we were given today, and it’s just the shot of energy we need to stay in the fight.
Black Lives Matter
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash