We, along with our newest team member, Kitt, were on the phone together watching the verdict come in live. I held my phone up to the tv so we could all listen together. The first verdict came in, and all I could hear was a sharp exhale. It came from me. Then the second guilty verdict. My shoulders released. And the third. Another guilty. Another exhale.
But we can not simply exhale right now, for this is not the end. I’m just as concerned about this guilty verdict as I would have been upon hearing ‘not-guilty’. It seems like something that should feel good, but it doesn’t. I still feel sad and empty and scared that some day I too will not see justice for something that happens to someone I love, because the guilty verdict is not what justice means to me. George Floyd is still dead and we all saw his murder take place over and over in the palms of our hands. There is no amount of prison time for Derek Chauvin that could ever make the Black community feel safe and whole, therefore, justice can not come from this verdict alone. Reforming the systems that led to this happening in the first place is the justice I someday hope to see.
The guilty verdict was absolutely the right thing to move us forward, and the civil justice labor that went into holding Derek Chauvin accountable is a monumental accomplishment. I invite you to think about how much work went into holding someone accountable for a murder we all saw, and why that is.
My first concern is that the guilty verdict will make the murder of a specific Black man seem like it’s one specific person’s fault, and the white allies we need to help us change systems from within will see a system that worked and held Chauvin accountable for his actions. [Brush off hands, the work is done]. But this is ONE verdict from ONE instance that happened to make national headlines. These types of murders aren’t even always reported, they’re not always caught on tape, and they rarely end up in a court of law or make national headlines. For every George Floyd there are more names you probably don’t know, like Tanisha Anderson, India Kager, Kayla Moore, Michelle Cusseaux, Rekia Boyd, Shelly Frey, Priscilla Slater, and Crystal Ragland. You’ve heard of Breonna Taylor, but what about Pamela Turner, Nina Adams, Latasha Walton, Brittany McLean, Angel Decarlo, or April Webster?
Will my name be one you remember or one you never hear?
Before the verdict came down, I watched a reporter on tv speculate that if Derek Chauvin was found guilty, police academies would use the testimony and videos from this trial as an example of how not to do the specific knee-on-the-neck move that killed George Floyd. But it’s not just this move, is it. It’s not just choke holds, knees and bullets. It’s easy to blame an individual person, refine a singular technique, or debate how many fewer shots should have been fired. Those are EASY solutions and quick fixes. We are calling for the hard ones.
I don’t want to be knelt on differently and I’m not interested in being choked in a more humane way.
I want to live without fear of getting slaughtered in my bed because of a ‘mistake that shouldn’t have been made’ or due to a right-vs-left hand ‘accident’. I don’t want to be shot for reaching to turn down my headphones so I can hear if the shouting in the distance is directed at me or not. As I walk around my neighborhood, I want to be able to put my hands in my pockets if they’re cold. I want to be given the benefit of doubt for existing, and not have a death sentence delivered after just 12 seconds of suspicion. I want to work, shop, fish, hunt, and bike without fear in a country that promised me freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
On the phone together, Parker, Kitt and I also expressed our obvious concern over a potential ‘not-guilty’ verdict. I was worried that a ‘not-guilty’ verdict would imply that Derek Chauvin didn’t do anything wrong-- not just by his officer training standards, but morally and ethically. Regardless of training and protocols, where was his humanity? And even if he had technically followed all appropriate procedures, (which he did NOT), it doesn’t mean that the system isn’t guilty, and the training he received as an officer of the law was appropriate. I didn’t watch the whole trial because, honestly, I don’t actually care about watching 12 random people pass judgement on Derek Chauvin today when it’s not likely to help keep my brothers safe tomorrow. I want to see these systems on trial. Derek Chauvin is not the problem here, he is the symptom. Blaming individuals is a setup for upholding broken systems. Similarly, the role of a law enforcement officer is intended to address symptoms of societal problems, but that’s simply not working anymore. Individual officers may not be a problem to you, but the system they are all part of is a problem for me.
In the upcoming weeks we will be releasing a statement about our stance on #DefundThePolice. Here is an excerpt from that document:
“A majority of white Americans are just now being shown the realities of how the police treat people of color. A lot of people are asking, “why are we just hearing about this now?” Police brutality has always been an issue, it was just never made public, and was suppressed by police themselves. In recent years, 90% of American adults own a phone with a camera. The reason we are suddenly seeing more and more of this brutality isn’t because it’s something new that hasn’t happened before, it’s because this is the first time that police brutality is being broadcast to the public. There are hundreds of thousands of Black Americans who can attest to the fact that police brutality has been happening for a long time and isn’t a new issue that suddenly needs to be addressed.”
In the next couple of weeks, we will release the whole statement from Inclusive Journeys, further defining our stance on what “Defund the Police” means to us, and address the history of police and oppression in our country.
White allies, going forward: Educate yourself and examine when you ACTUALLY need to call the police. Especially when people of color are involved. Acknowledge that your perception of danger may be formed by conscious or unconscious bias’ you and everyone else hold true. Pause and truly assess the actual threat level of the situation before dialing 9-1-1. Law enforcement has continued to demonstrate that when they arrive on a scene, they can cause more harm than good, and rolling the dice and hoping for a “good cop” may cost a life. Evaluate the situation, examine your biases, and ask yourself if the police really need to be involved, or if those are the only people you know to call. Before you find yourself in an emergency, educate yourself about the resources available in your community. You can start by visiting Dontcallthepolice.com, and dashrco.org. Save this number in your phone right now 1-720-913-STAR (7827) as an alternative to 911.
One guilty verdict does not mean everything is over and done. This is a system that needs to be dismantled. And yet, we are not merely dismantlers of systems. We are also builders. We call for ingenuity, creativity, and empathy-driven solutions to build something new, together. We are on an inclusive journey, and hope to hear your voices, your needs, your thoughts, your opinions, your solutions. We’re not here to debate symptoms. We show up every single day to provide tangible real-life contributions to build a new system, replacing one that, quite frankly, scares the shit out of us.