Yesterday, we learned the jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all charges – second degree murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter, for the death of George Floyd. He faces up to 40 years in prison, and we eagerly await what his sentence will actually be. Will it be the maximum sentence that has been requested by the prosecution? Will the judge determine there were aggravating factors that justify a higher sentence? Will we hear testimony from children who were present at the scene and subsequently traumatized when Mr. Floyd was killed? Will they consider an aggravating factor the reality that Chauvin abused his power and authority? These are all questions running through our minds as we look to the final results of this painful trial. While this is one step in the right direction, there is still so much more to unfold. We are celebrating something that should really have been as clear as day.
It’s hard to say that “justice” was served in this case. George Floyd, and too many others, should still be alive. This did not need to occur in order for us to learn that our systems need to be more equitable. Simply being alive is not enough, since true justice means that we are dismantling the grip of racism and where people can live their lives free of oppression. There is still so much more work to be done in order for true justice to be served in this country.
It is long overdue to have consistent accountability for the many wrongful deaths inflicted by those in power. Systemic changes are needed to prevent more violence toward brown and Black bodies. There have been many other instances this past year where we have not seen similar responses to equally horrific and saddening examples of violence.
No sooner than the verdict was being read, we already heard of another incident, this time in Ohio. Makiyah Bryant was 15 years old and called the police for help when she was shot and killed.
This is clearly not over and I remain hopeful that this verdict is a symbolic shift in this country. We know that it isn’t time to put away the lawn signs and stop the marches. Millions woke up to this crisis, what some have called a part of our twin pandemic last year, and people, some for the first time ever, got involved. People took to the streets last summer, in the middle of a pandemic, risking their lives to organize, call on, and demand decision-makers to listen. This has to be the beginning of this country’s awakening to the brutal injustices our brown and Black communities face. It is long overdue. Keep speaking up against injustice, keep taking action and keep caring for each other.
Elika Dadsetan-Foley, Executive Director