The sheer amount of shock on Derek Chauvin’s face when the jury announced that he was guilty of murder, and would spend a significant chunk of his life in prison for it, is very telling of the racial bias that’s ingrained in every corner of the USA.
Logistically, there was a lot stacked against the state within the three-week-long Derek Chauvin trial. Number one, Chauvin was a police officer, and, for some reason, we Americans have convinced ourselves that members of the police force have the right to murder anyone and claim self-defense if the system even requires them to do that much. Number two, George Floyd was a Black man, and Black men disproportionately fall victim to the hands of police officers — so much so that these scenarios are partially expected. Number three, the United States is racist. A White man murdered a Black man? The highest powers in the U.S. normally look at that situation and say, oh well. Just another day.
Up against Derek Chauvin were multiple videos of the nine-minute-long murder and nationwide protests screaming George Floyd’s name. This was a breaking point. Chauvin didn’t stop even when cameras were pointed at him, immortalizing his crime. He was so sure his system would protect him. We, as citizens — tired of seeing Black people as victims of murder on a daily basis — had no choice but to be loud and cause a scene. We remained peaceful, but we refused to be silenced this time. The world rallied behind us.
It worked. Government officials got so fed up with Black Lives Matter protests, and, perhaps, fearful about what would follow, that they allowed the Derek Chauvin trial to gain footing, and they allowed one of their own to succumb to the system. When you murder someone, you go to prison for it. For once, a white person in power came face-to-face with this rule.
Obviously, the conclusion of the Derek Chauvin trial was a huge relief. Most other cases of that nature wouldn’t cause so much anxiety — how could you possibly disprove the murder of a man when there are videos of the murderer pressing his knee down against the victim’s neck?
Being Black in the U.S. prepares you for anything, though. I would have been infuriated if Chauvin somehow got off scott free (it was bad enough that he pleaded the fifth, did not automatically undergo life without parole sentence and still has the opportunity to appeal the decision), but I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.
In my, and many others, opinion, Derek Chauvin was only convicted because of the Black Lives Matter protests. Remember Emmett Till? His murderers publicly announced that they had killed him, yet they were never convicted for doing so. Yes, this was a slightly different time — 1956. Still, preceding the trial of Till’s murderers, there was no nationwide, or worldwide, protest. There was no uproar loud enough to worry the people in power. Protests were what got George Zimmerman, the man who took Trayvon Martin’s life, charged with murder — though he never did serve the time a murderer should.
This is the U.S. — our past, present, and future. Political movements like Black Lives Matter are born out of the knowledge that one small step does and means next to, nothing. Breonna Taylor’s murderers were not convicted for murder. Countless names of Black people make news headlines and the trending pages of social media platforms every day because, once again, a police officer murdered someone. How many of these headlines or trends are followed by trial updates? How many of these cases end in ‘Officer Found Guilty of Murder?’ The simplest answer is: not enough.
I, personally, think we should continue to protest. We should do our best to organize protests proactively rather than reactively. Government officials will continue to think throwing one of their own under the bus will be a good enough sacrifice to keep minorities at bay, so they can then avoid having to actually create a change. Throwing them off guard with protests that, to them, will seem to be out of nowhere, is the only way to get them to actually listen.
We know convicting Derek Chauvin was not enough. We’re not happy that a white man is now sitting in prison for murder. We just want to stop dying. We want to stop losing lives to racial bias and white privilege. This is not a fight for justice; it is a fight for life.
R.I.P to George Floyd and Derek Chauvin — respectively: rest in peace, and rot in prison.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Jane Rosenberg / Reuters