It’s been ten months since Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis—in front of the whole world—with subzero indifference, lethal determination, and no shred of humanity. And frankly, I’m uneasy about the whole thing.
I’ve been Black a man for a long time and the way this country goes out of its way to deny Black people justice is well documented and soul-crushing. American's penchant for heaping generous portions of justice and mercy with a side of "benefit of the doubt" for everyone except Black people is well-documented.
That people around the world saw Derek Chauvin's actions against Mr. Floyd for what they were, a murder, and demonstrated in protest for weeks on end during a pandemic, should attest to the true horror of the willful, deliberate, and actual killing that took place. But white supremacy works a masterful sleight of hand in which jurors are convinced not to believe their lying eyes or there's some heretofore loophole that allows whiteness to walk off into the sunset with impunity.
That's not justice.
I want justice for Mr. Floyd’s family. I want them to know that their beloved's killer will spend the rest of his life behind bars. I want that for any murder victims' survivors. The millions of dollars awarded Mr. Floyd's family in the civil case will serve them well, but it won’t bring back their loved one.
. . . America’s track record for delivering justice on the behalf of Black people is woefully shameful.
As a Black man, I’ve often heard it said that “I can never understand what it’s like to be Black.” It sure seems that a lot of white folks came to better understand the Black experience the day Mr. Floyd was murdered. It also seems that for once, an unusually large number of white folks were able to set aside the what-abouts, the caveats, and excuses, and understand the monumental crime against humanity Chauvin committed.
When watching the footage of Mr. Floyd's murder, I see my brother, my uncles, nephews, friends, and acquaintances, and people whose names I’ll never know. I see my father. I see myself. Not as perpetrators of some heinous crime or people responsible for their murder, but people who, solely because of someone else’s hatred of people with Black skin, could become the next victim of racial hatred.
Whiteness is a strong drug that affords many privileges, not the least of which absolution for an untold number of white killers of Black people. Even though Chauvin faces charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, all it takes is one juror to hold out for him to be found not guilty. Just one.
I consider myself an optimist, but at the same time, I’m also a realist. Past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior, and America’s track record for delivering justice on the behalf of Black people is woefully shameful. I’m unabashedly skeptical this or any jury with a predominance of white jurors can set aside their racial prejudices and return a unanimous guilty verdict. I want more than anything this jury proves my skepticism wrong.
This trial is about more than the killing of George Floyd. It is about more than justice for Mr. Floyd’s family. It is about the unbridled power of white supremacy in the dehumanization of Black people and holding that power accountable. It is about America recognizing and upholding the inherent humanity of Black people just as it does its white counterparts.
Top photo: A mural in Minneapolis by Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, Greta McLain, Niko Alexander, and Pablo Hernandez from Colossal.com.