I’m pretty sure I didn’t move a muscle.
As soon as the judge came back into the courtroom to read the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case, my whole body tightened up and I didn’t move.
For days now, my thoughts have been back in April of 1992 when I was in California and had just turned 21 and my college friends had planned a night on the town to celebrate. We went to a bar so I could get my first legal drink, but the night was not celebratory. Shortly before we left our dorm to go downtown, the four LAPD policemen who had beaten Rodney King (on video no less) had been acquitted.
We had all watched that trial closely and just couldn’t believe that the officers were acquitted. Perhaps this our first real taste of the reality Black people in this country have faced for a long time. We just sat quietly in a very subdued bar looking at the TVs that were all tuned to the riots that had broken out in Los Angeles.
After a couple of hours, we scrapped our plan and just went back to campus. Which ended up being a good idea because there were scattered riots in our city, too. Our college was literally up on a hill and we stood at the end of the field looking at the various fires burning in our city.
I’ve been thinking that it’s been almost 30 years since that night, and would we just repeat the same mistakes as before. George Floyd was murdered on camera and we all saw it. But here I was, thinking about that earlier trial, which seemed like a slam dunk to me, which had gone so horribly wrong.
I waited, motionless, silently, to hear the verdict. It was only when I heard the first Guilty verdict that I started breathing again. Leaned in to hear another Guilty verdict. And then another. Guilty of all charges. Finally.
I know I felt relief, but I wanted to hear how the Black community was reacting. Here are a few responses:
Yesterday’s verdict brought some accountability, which is good. Some say that there was justice for George Floyd. But everyone agrees, that this is only one step, and we have a long ways to go before we achieve “Equal Justice Under the Law” and “Black Lives Matter.”
What we can do
Currently, there are two policing bills that have been proposed in Congress: the Justice in Policing Act and the Breathe Act. They are different and each has important backers from the Black community. I encourage you to click on the bills’ names to read a brief Wikipedia description of what they propose to do to change policing, and then call your Representative in Congress (get their contact info HERE) to tell them which one(s) you want them to vote for.
Next, I encourage you to explore the Obama Foundation’s resource page that has excellent information to learn about the current state of policing, explore innovations to change policing, and specific actions you can take.
Justice won’t happen without action. Let’s listen to the Black community and push for the solutions they are asking for.