Derek Chauvin Guilty of Murder, but Was Justice Truly Served?
Amid the cheers of protestors, Derek Chauvin was finally convicted of all charges for the murder of George Floyd. Nearly 11 months later, Floyd’s family and the nation could exhale. There is no doubt this was a historic win, but the wounds that were left by Floyd’s death remain open.
Tuesday afternoon, I waited with bated breath and tense shoulders as the judge asked each juror if the verdict was correct. Once jurors confirmed, my fingers didn’t grab my phone to tweet “justice has been served!” They curled up as I fought the urge to pick at my nails and anxiously wonder when I would be subjected to this again. How many more trials, how many more verdicts before enough is enough?
I didn’t need a trial, 45 witnesses, and a verdict to know that Chauvin was guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Although Chauvin faces up to 40 years behind bars, it’s still painful to know that an acquittal was a real possibility.
My mind went radio silent when my AP U.S History teacher asked our class if we thought the trial of the officer that killed George Floyd would be a turning point in the BLM movement. This question, just hours before the verdict was announced, was irritating to say the least. The responses of my classmates went in one ear and out the other as I hyper-focused on the phrase “the officer that killed George Floyd.” It irked me. Hearing that was like every time someone said “the George Floyd verdict” or every news headline that read “the George Floyd trial,” when it’s not George Floyd’s trial—it’s Derek Chauvin’s trial.
It reminded me of every time a white criminal — whether they were a mass shooter or a police officer — was shielded from public scrutiny by omitting their name or displaying appealing pictures of them with their family.
The way my teacher asked that question alone had me knowing my answer before I could even blink. I clicked the unmute button and explained how BIPOC communities and members of the BLM movement have seen trials like this before. We are forced to re-mobilize after every incident of police brutality.
A case won doesn’t erase the systemic injustice within American policing and the criminal justice system. And even though my class moved on to the next topic, I couldn’t. My mind remained with that question and quickly thought of it again after the verdict was announced. An announcement I heard right after scrolling through tweets about Adam Toledo and Daunte Wright — two lives lost to police brutality during Chauvin’s trial.
This is not to mention how the prosecutors had to portray Chauvin as a “bad apple” to even win the case in the first place.
While I am still grateful for Chauvin’s conviction, I know the fight is far from over. I hope a precedent is set for convicting murderous police officers in similar cases, however, not at the expense of perpetuating the “one bad apple” excuse.
Chauvin’s conviction was not serving justice. It was holding a criminal accountable for a crime many witnessed him commit months ago. Justice is uprooting the systems that continue police brutality and create cases like the one against Derek Chauvin. Justice is passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021. A bill that “addresses a wide range of policies and issues with policing practices and law enforcement accountability.” Justice is what we need to keep advocating for.