Upon hearing the verdict that Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three charges, I felt some relief and a measure of joy. The world wasn’t righted by any stretch. The structures of racial oppression didn’t melt away. Nor did police shootings and vigilantism suddenly cease, as we were reminded when Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16 year old African American girl, was shot 4 times in the chest in Columbus, Ohio and died, 20 minutes before the verdict was announced.
And yet, the jury’s quick verdict to convict Chauvin of all charges goes against the grain of past practice where acquittal, regardless of deeply incriminating evidence, was assured. It is also a reminder of the changing landscape in this struggle, and demonstrates the power of popular mass action. Don’t let anyone tell you that the millions of people in the streets didn’t find its way into the courtroom deliberations and the jury’s decision.
Victories always run the danger of creating illusions, but there is little evidence of that here. Rather, for the growing array of drum majors for racial justice, this verdict is proof that their activism is necessary, their cause just, and their mission unfinished.
George Floyd was killed, assassinated by racists who assumed, with more than ample precedent, that the blue wall and stacked courts would protect them no matter how out of bounds and deadly their actions. But they were wrong. And while nothing can make up for the Floyd family’s sorrow, perhaps the verdict and the well spring of support for George can give them a little comfort that his death, as his brother said at the time, wasn’t in vain; that he didn’t die unknown and unnoticed.
Indeed, George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland and Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo and Ma’Khia Bryant and so many others) reside in the hearts of tens of millions who feel outraged by their extrajudicial murders at the hands of “upholders” of the law and a judicial system that demonstrates, almost daily, that Black Lives don’t matter. The struggle continues!