On Tuesday, the world held its breath as the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial: a jury of his peers had deliberated for over 10 hours to find him guilty on all three counts of murder. His bail was revoked and he was remanded into custody. So, for what felt like the first time in almost a year, we exhaled. I personally burst into tears. I couldn’t truly believe that an officer would serve time for killing an unarmed Black man. In this country, police officers kill around 1000 people a year. In 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, there were only 18 days where police officers didn’t kill someone. Since 2005, only 121 officers have been charged with manslaughter or murder and only 44 have been convicted. I’m not sure when we started believing that officers were executioners, but that seems to be the way we treat them.
George Floyd was murdered and his murder was caught on video. Without that video, no one would have been held accountable for his death. Because that’s what this is: accountability. Police officers like everyone else, need to be held accountable for their actions. A badge does not protect you from the law that you swore to uphold. The verdict in this trial will change nothing. Our police departments will continue to kill unarmed Black people, just like they did on Tuesday. Police in Columbus, Ohio killed a 16-year-old girl, named Ma’Khia Bryant, after she called the cops because girls outside were trying to fight her. On the same day that we celebrated, another family lost a loved one to police brutality. I fear that what we will see in response to this verdict is backlash from the police. No one likes to be told that they are wrong, even when they are. Our history tells us that whenever Black people make one step forward, the whiplash is so severe that it pushes us three steps back.
My condolences and prayers go out to Ma’Khia’s family and to George Floyd’s family. Some days this burden feels as though it’s too much to bear. But we will continue to fight for what is right: a true justice system. A system where police do not get to kill without impunity. A system where citizens do not need to second-guess calling the police for help because it might be safer not to. A system where police put as much effort into protecting life as they do into protecting property. As I was texting one of my friends, I noted that I did not want my Godson to find himself in the same position 30 years from now. Holding his breath for another verdict in a police brutality case. Our parents had the Rodney King assault case, and we had the murder of George Floyd. I pray our children will never know this feeling.