Public Justice Statement on Derek Chauvin Verdict
During the trial leading up to today’s verdict in Minneapolis, finding police officer Derek Chauvin responsible for the murder of George Floyd, special prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked the jury in the case to “Believe your eyes,” adding that, “What you saw, you saw.” The jury, in turn, saw the dire need for accountability in our country’s ongoing struggle to call out police brutality and murder. The jury delivered a long overdue guilty verdict, which stands not only as the conclusion that Derek Chavin was guilty of murdering George Floyd, but also reflects the grievous injury and trauma such actions have inflicted on America’s Black community.
The jury has done its job, and the nation still has immensely important and urgent work left to do. While accountability is welcome, it does not deliver full justice. For while the jury saw the horrific images of Floyd being suffocated and murdered at the hands of the police, many Americans – and especially Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) persons – also saw an ugly, generations-long truth about our country: Being BIPOC in America still means worrying about your safety, and the safety of your family and loved ones, every single day.
Today’s verdict may reflect the common sense and wisdom that a jury can bring, but it does not restore our national promise of justice for all. True justice for George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade would mean each of those individuals was alive with us today. True justice – for every person, family and community of color in our country – requires dismantling systemic racism. It requires comprehensive, sweeping police reform that ensures brutality is replaced with bridge building. It requires an end to the doctrine of qualified immunity, which has provided cover for too many murders. And it requires building a judiciary where every person can see themselves reflected and represented in the legal and political systems of America.
It also requires us, as Steve Schleicher implored the jury in Minneapolis, to “believe your eyes” and wake up to the harsh reality of what it means to be BIPOC in America. What we see day in and day out in our country is an ugly truth: The AAPI community degraded by politicians and under deadly assault in their workplaces. Black families holding funerals for young men and women who have perished at the hands and knees of those sworn to protect. Black churches, Muslim mosques, Jewish synagogues and Sikh temples defaced and destroyed by agents of hate. Every day, another headline, another family ripped apart and another reminder that too little has changed.
This all takes place in a nation where our judicial system, and the legal profession itself, is overwhelmingly white and privileged. This deadly imbalance has never been acceptable; it must be changed.
Accountability for George Floyd’s killer has come, but justice for the communities being killed has yet to arrive. Realizing that goal will require more work than one jury alone can do. It will require all of us, and especially those of us privileged with the means to do so, to open our collective eyes and fight against the racism, hate and killing we all see every day. We must all be agents of change and we must all, each and every day, call out what we see and seek, together, to fix it.