As I watched Mary Ann Coughlin’s Humanics lecture, where she spoke about two pandemics – one, the global health emergency and two, racism and social injustice, I received President Cooper’s email.
That was where I received the news that the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer that violently forced his knee into the neck of George Floyd for a gruesome eight minutes and 46 seconds, was in.
When we look back on the summer of 2020, what Coughlin addressed in her speech will be exactly what we think of. Though there were several deaths of innocent people of color at the hands of the police since the beginning of the pandemic, the viral video of this instance was the major catalyst that reinvigorated the movement for social justice.
This case was unique in the fact that it was broadcasted from the very beginning, and that did not change when the trial was also broadcast and televised in totality. A transparent display of our criminal justice system at work – one that has consistently failed people of color, over and over again.
As Amanda Gorman, an extraordinary young poet, put on Twitter, “The fact that we know what the verdict SHOULD be but remain unsure of what it WILL be speaks volumes about our nation. We have work to do.”
Finally, just after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20, the judge read the verdict.
Guilty of second-degree murder.
Guilty of third-degree murder.
Guilty of second-degree manslaughter.
Convicted of all charges.
Up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder, and up to 10 for second-degree manslaughter – up to 75 years in all.
Chauvin will be sentenced in eight weeks, and bail has been revoked. The ex-cop was led away from the courtroom in handcuffs.
A feeling of relief leveled the nation.
We have been raised in a world where the criminal justice system has failed people of color, time and time again. Even when there is significant evidence in a police officer shooting, the officer is still acquitted – a show of the systemic racism that permeates the institutions of our country.
But now, we may be approaching a turning point in our country’s history.
It is important, however, to understand that though this case has become the face of the reinvigorated fight for social justice, Derek Chauvin is not the face of racism. Just because he was convicted, the fight is not over. We are going to see several additional similar cases, and some where the evidence may not be so clear.
Justice was served on April 20, 2021, but racism itself has not been detained.