I’m sitting here reflecting on the verdict that just came down for Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd. Guilty on all charges.
Justice has been served. So why do I not feel any different?
The verdict does represent justice—a form of justice. A modicum of justice. But it is not true justice. This justice is incomplete, tainted.
True justice would be George Floyd still breathing. Still alive. Still able to spend time with his children, his family and friends. To be the incredible individual so many people have said he was. To be alive to live his life, make mistakes, learn new things, teach those coming after him.
True justice would be Black people having the same experiences with law enforcement as White people do. Where a traffic stop for a minor violation doesn’t, at best, result in cold sweats and a lump in your throat, and at worst, leave you cold and lifeless and bleeding on the ground. Where heavily armed White mass shooters are apprehended without incident and given food and water, while unarmed Black men and women are shot dead without hesitation, or by “mistake.” Where armed insurgents and White supremacists are all but ignored by law enforcement, or are even cheered on, while Black (and brown) peaceful protestors are met with military-grade resistance, riot suits, tear gas, and rubber bullets.
…true justice is still beyond the horizon.
True justice would be George Floyd, and all the other innocent Black men and women who die at the hands of police, not being tried for their own deaths, even when those deaths are filmed in full color and sound for the world to see.
The reality of my feelings right now is that this verdict cannot possibly make me feel any better, because nothing has changed. One police officer was convicted, in an ongoing litany of police officers who commit equivalent acts of injustice, and unnecessarily take the lives of Black men and women, and are sent back on the streets with their jobs and guns and a slap on the wrist, if that. And what did it take for Chauvin to be convicted? The efforts of the prosecution far exceeded what history shows would have been necessary if George Floyd had been accused of killing anyone himself—or if a Black police officer had killed an unarmed White person. Derek Chauvin is one police officer who was held accountable, but that unexpected accountability does not equal widespread accountability in our policing system. This is not systemic change.
It’s possible that since the death of George Floyd felt in many ways like an inflection point in U.S. history, the conviction of his murderer, a police officer, will be a catalyst for real change as well. It’s possible. But the reality remains that as a Black man in America, I cannot live that hope out loud. It is still far too possible that any number of seemingly innocent moments could result in a police officer ending my time on this earth, transforming me into yet another example of how justice is not blind…at least not for people who look like me. I still have to watch what I say, what I do, how I interact with police—and even on my best, most compliant behavior, it could still not be enough.
Justice was served today. A modicum of justice. But true justice is still beyond the horizon.
How do I feel? I’m still here. That will have to be enough for now.
Rest in Power George Floyd.