Derek Chauvin trial : no lessons were learned in the fight against racial violence and racism
Justice will be done when the racist, repugnant and abusive system in place is abolished.
April 20, 2021 will, I believe, remain a historic and important date in the fight against racial violence and racism. Former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three counts of “intentional violence resulting in death”, “manslaughter (“third-degree murder”)” and “murder (“second-degree murder”)” after killing George Floyd, an African-American citizen, during a police interpellation. A murder filmed and of an extreme atrocity by the fact that citizens witnessed it and that we see, in particular, the arrested person begging the police officers to let him breathe — experiencing an enormous difficulty — and calling his mother (recently deceased, at the time of the events).
The reaction of Black Lives Matter activists, African American (and white American) citizens, and Floyd’s family was swift when the verdict was announced. Following the final and long-awaited verdict, his brother, Philonese Floyd, gave a poignant speech that, I think, will forever be remembered in History : « And the person that comes to mind is 1955, and to me, he was the first George Floyd. That was Emmett Till. […] People had forgotten about him, but he was the first George Floyd. »
He continues : « But today you have the cameras all around the world to see and show what happened to my brother. It was a motion picture. The world was watching his life being extinguished. And I couldn’t do nothing but watch. Especially in that courtroom over and over and over again, as my brother was murdered. Times, they’re getting harder every day. »
« We have to always understand that we have to march. We will have to do it for life. We have to protest. Because it seems like this is a never-ending cycle. Reverend Al always told me, ‘we gotta keep fighting.’ I’m gonna put up a fight every day. Because I’m not just fighting for George anymore, I’m fighting for everybody around this world. I get calls, dms, people from Brazil, from Ghana, from Germany — everybody — London, Italy, they’ re all saying the same thing, ‘We won’t be able to breathe until you’ re able to breathe.’ Today, we are able to breathe again. »
For the Floyd family, this trial and verdict is a sign that the fight (for George) is over (not taking into account the three other police officers present at the time of the events, who will go to trial on August 23) — « We are able to breathe again » — but not for me. The struggle is far from being “over”. Because when I look at the expression on Derek Chauvin’s face, the way he didn’t react, the way he looked… I am unable to put a term on the way he stood when the verdict was announced, but the only thing I can say and that I know to be true is that he will be protected, in jail, no matter what. No matter what we think, no matter what we do. This man will be protected — not to mention he is going to appeal.
George Floyd is just one of the hundreds of thousands of African-Americans who have been unjustly killed at the hands of the police. The world’s media, the world’s people, keep repeating that this trial is a « victory for those who fight for justice » — which is true, in a way — they go even further by stating that it is a « giant step » in change, in the fight against racial violence and racism — but how is it a “giant step”, since it is (absolutely) not ? In what way ? I’m open to any explanation, I’d like to know, in what way ?
I came across this tweet, while writing this opinion piece and looking for something to back up and expand my thoughts, and what it says is very true. What we got, what the (entire) world got, what we as black people got, what the African American people got, on this April 20, 2021, is not justice for George Floyd (and the thousands of others who were victims of this same barbaric act) but accountability for Chauvin’s actions — and this surely explains (from my point of view) why Chauvin possessed this kind of “proud” look — the fight for justice continues and will not end until the system perpetuating racial violence and racism collapses.
What these people call a “giant step”, “progress”, is not. Malcolm X said it : « If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven’t even pulled the knife out much less heal the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there. » — they won’t even admit that they set up, generations and generations ago, a racist, despicable system to unjustly punish and torture minorities. They won’t admit that this system is harmful and causes a lot of problems. In the case of George Floyd, the trial of his murderer is not a giant step forward or a step towards change, because only hours after that, a 15-year-old Afro-American teenager was shot and killed by the police that she herself had called. Please tell me where is the giant step in that ?
I say it, loud and clear : no lessons were learned in the fight against racial violence and racism. If we truly want justice for the thousands of George Floyd’s who were (and are) victims of these barbaric acts, the racist, repugnant and evil system that has been put in place must be abolished. And all we can and must do is continue to fight, again and again — even if it means the world has to be on fire (what have we got to lose, anyway?), because there will be no progress, no giant step forward, as long as this system is in place.
And I can’t mention George Floyd’s case without mentioning Breonna Taylor’s. Because she too deserves (some semblance of) justice. She too deserves to see her three murderers — say their names, please, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankinson, and Myles Cosgrove — punished and jailed. Because all she has today is a petition (not to mention numerous (shameful) magazine covers) that millions of people are signing, over and over again, in the hope that she will get justice. And the same is true for Elijah McClain.
In the hope of change, of a real breakthrough in the fight against racial violence and racism, of seeing this system crumble, we must continue to fight. Every day. Every moment. Because the fight is difficult, far from over, we must remain united and focused on one goal : the quest for a new world in which every being lives in peace, without fear, without judgement, and in harmony with their fellow man.