Justice Served?

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

John Lewis Could Never Rest

I’m not even going to get into how 2020 has robbed us of so many good ones and left us quite a few of the crappy ones. John Lewis was among the good ones—a good man who caused good trouble.

When he passed this summer, I began to learn much more about him than when he was alive—even though I was a great admirer of his. If you’ve never read the 1996 memoire of his life and involvement in the civil rights movement, Walking With the Wind, I highly recommend it.

Aside from the many remarkable things I was struck with throughout his life story, was the fact that in describing some of the societal battles of the 90s, he honestly could have been talking about our present day. And this coming from a man who’d been through the worst of it in the 60s.

In 1996, I was 21 years old. And I’m going to make a confession. I voted Republican to impress my ex-boyfriend. Let’s put that in the bucket of “Stupid Things Girls Do in the Name of Males Who Aren’t Worth It.” So yes, I voted for Bob Dole. Admittedly, I wasn’t impressed with Bill Clinton’s womanizing issues and the many complaints that had already come forward—and this was long before Monica Lewinsky became a household name. I really didn’t know too much about other issues at that time. And I’m not proud of how oblivious I was to the issues that would shape my generation and our lives as working adults and parents.

So back to John Lewis. Peep this: “The recent movement toward school choice and the dismantling of court-ordered desegregation is causing schools and communities to coalesce into separate enclaves of blacks, whites, and Hispanics. The people supporting the notion of school “vouchers” are primarily people who have already pulled their children out of public schools and who now want to drain the public coffers for the privileged few. I think it is cynical and self-serving of them to pretend that their concern is for the quality of education of the students who have been left behind in those neglected, decaying schools. Pretty transparently, their concern is to stop paying taxed for a system they have already abandoned. This is just one of the many paths leading to resegregation, and we cannot afford to let it happen.”

I was kind of floored by this—perhaps naively, I thought this whole voucher thing was a just a machination of Amway queen, Betsy Devos. But this was a thing 24 years ago and Lewis saw its perils back then.

Speaking of Newt Gingrich—a name I remember tossed around as a great example of a divisive crackpot embraced by those on the extreme right—John Lewis’ words about him echoed sentiments that might as well be repeated today.

“Newt and his followers represent a different breed of politician, one that is mean, angry, vindictive and harsh. Compassion is not a term that seems to matter much in their vocabulary. They argue that Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society was a dismal failure, that it set the country back, made people dependent, misallocated precious resources and sowed the seeds of most of the problems society faces today. They argue that those problems stem from “big government.” Their mandate—their “Contract with America”—is to dismantle that government, to pull apart the federal system and put control back in the hands of states and localities, back as they put it, “in the hands of the people.”

Heard anything like that lately?

How tired must he have been having to fight in the 60s, fight in the 90s, and then to see Trump come to power? If only he didn’t pass before he could feel the sweet relief of watching him voted out.

Career politicians, among the many things they are called, are tenacious. John Lewis, however, was never in it to hold on to power till the end of his days. For him, it was about fighting the fight, and causing “good trouble,” for as long as it would take for things to get better and actually stay that way.

That’s a legacy to admire—the kind that doesn’t quit. The kind that keeps going on. The kind that takes a stand (power to him for boycotting the inauguration of a president he knew would be very bad for America).

Good trouble is exactly that: good and necessary. Now more than ever.

Emmett and Breonna

Warning: Wilo is not chipper in this post. She’s going to be harsh in a snarky way. You’ve been warned.

Look at this image. Take it in.

You are likely familiar with Breonna Taylor’s murder and the gross mishandling of justice that came out of Louisville yesterday. In case you missed it, no one is guilty of busting into her apartment in the middle of the night and shooting her a crap ton times, while looking for someone who wasn’t even there. But I believe “precious souls” are being punished for damaging drywall. That’s my super condensed version of events—I highly encourage you to research all the facts and understand it for yourself.

In the very strange way things sometimes go down in the world, Emmett Till’s murderers were acquitted on the same day (September 23) 65 years ago.

If there are some of you who aren’t familiar with Emmett Till’s story, I’m happy to bring you up to speed. Emmett Till was a 14-year-old boy from Chicago who went south to Mississippi one summer to visit relatives. The story went that while buying candy from a local corner store owned by white people, he flirted (in the way a devil-may-care, fun-loving boy thinks flirting is) with the store’s pretty young cashier. She tells her husband. He goes and tells his half-brother—both of whom are about as racist and brutal men as you will find—and one night, they abduct this child from his relative’s home, and was never seen alive again. Was he alone in the house that night? No. The house was filled with people, but for a rural, black Mississippi family in 1955, angry white men could bust into YOUR home in the dead of night and take whatever they wanted.

Emmett was horrifically beaten and brutalized, shot, and then had a 75-pound cotton gin fan tied to his body to make him sink in the murky river they threw him into. No one was supposed to ever find him that way.

Except days later his body was found.

They brought him to Chicago to his mother. He was unrecognizable. His mother Mamie, in a feat of absolute strength and bravery, insisted his funeral casket be open—and that everything be photographed so the world would see what those evil men did to her baby. The photos ran in Jet magazine, and yes, the world saw.

The men were arrested. There was a trial. A brave witness pointed them out in court—almost certainly guaranteeing his own death. And they walked.

Emmett Till’s death and this disgusting display of twisted and tampered, racist “law and justice” in these United States was the catalyst to the civil rights movement.

Years later, the pretty little shopkeeper who started a chain of events that led to the murder of an innocent child, suddenly had an epiphany. Apparently, telling lies about young black people to racists with murderous tendencies isn’t nice. And then she admits she made the entire thing up.

But Emmett Till is gone. And no one was brought to justice.

Breonna Taylor is gone. And no one was brought to justice.

What could they have become?

65 years apart. Two young people with so much promise. Same end result.

One thing has changed in 65 years. There are a lot more of us now—from every color and creed and gender who are sticking up for black lives, demanding this country internalize to the very core of its soul that the lives of black people absolutely matter. Yesterday, today, tomorrow, forever.

Regardless of the outcome of this election, keep marching. Keep posting. Keep agitating. Keep the heat on. We’re not anywhere near done yet.

Leave a comment if you will. I’d love to discuss.