Once there was news that the verdict had been reached by the jury in the George Floyd case, there was an unequivocal feeling of anxiety and dread on my social media. Black people, including myself, could not bring themselves to be hopeful because too often we have been let down by systems that are self-interested and were built to protect those that reinforced them. Even with a 9 minute 4K video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, there was a collective feeling that it may not be enough to get the correct verdict.
Since 2005, there have been 140 occasions where a charge was brought against a police officer for fatal shootings and only on 7 of those occasions were the officers charged with murder. We can take a look at some other high profile cases: Eric Garner, no conviction; Michael Brown, no conviction; Tamir Rice, no conviction; Breonna Taylor, no conviction; Elijah McClain, no conviction. So forgive us if we weren’t feeling too hopeful about what was to come.
As they announced the verdict and Derek Chauvin was found to be guilty on all 3 charges, I could see the eruption of relief all over my timeline and initially, I also felt that feeling of relief. However, it was quickly replaced by a sick feeling of inevitability. It took the whole world to stand up and denounce what had happened for anyone to take notice … for there to be any accountability. It is inevitable that this is going to happen again until there is radical systemic change.
The guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin is not justice – there is nothing just about the Criminal Justice System as it exists. This was a verdict that shows accountability for the murder of a Black man. Justice looks at correcting the systemic problems that lead to racialised and disproportionate violence against Black people, and people of colour more generally. It’s a world in which Black people aren’t murdered by the people that are said to be there to protect them. It’s a world in which the world does not have to literally burn for there to be accountability.
“The experiences of millions of people from ‘ethnic minorities’, and the generations before them, clearly show us that institutional racism and racial inequity are problems that need to be addressed swiftly and with decisiveness.
We must remain optimistic about the possibilities, embrace transformative change and reject the cynicism we may face in our pursuit of a more equitable society.”
I remain hopeful because without hope there would be no reason to get up every day and fight the injustices that we see in the world. It is that hope (as well as justified anger and frustration) that have galvanised movements that shook the world and brought about change. Movements coordinated by every day, frustrated, passionate and hopeful people who believe that the world will be a better place because it has to be. There are solutions to all problems, no matter the size and we have to focus on realising the possibilities.
I will continue to remain angry and upset about injustice and equity. I am also under no illusion that radical change will happen overnight and I am also not convinced it will happen in my lifetime. However, we must work towards the joyful, healthy and life-giving world that we imagined for ourselves and that we want future generations. I will couple my child-like imagination of what the world should look like with the skills and knowledge I will continue to build throughout my life to bring about solutions for the good of others.
Process your emotions. Protect your peace. Take some time out. Do whatever you need to do. But remember, we all have a role to play and we all have choices to make. If the last year has shown us anything it’s that ordinary people can bring about extraordinary change.