Why the Derek Chauvin Conviction Doesn't Feel Like a Win
George Floyd’s death shook the nation in June 2020. As soon as I saw his name starting to trend, I knew what was about to happen step by step.
Step One: Outrage
Everyone flocks to social media. They learn about the injustice that just happened. They question how this could happen. They say, “This isn’t my America!”
Others say, “We don’t have all the information yet,” and defend the system even if there is video proof that they shouldn’t.
Everyone is pissed off for one of two reasons — either that this has happened (again) or that it happened and people are fighting back against it.
Step Two: Protests and Promises
Community organizers gather. Crowds flock downtown, typically to police departments and state buildings. They march and shout that this injustice needs to stop. Cops show up to the scene geared up in the latest military fashion, armed with tear gas and rubber bullets just like they did in the 1950s and 1960s. Peaceful protests turn violent at the hand of looters not associated with the cause and the same police who are sworn in to protect the people they are actively harming.
Companies and corporate America make promises they don’t know how to keep, not that some of them ever intended to. Black people are told by their “friends” how much they’re loved, only to then not hear from them again until the next time a Black person is murdered by the hands of police brutality.
We’re seen as saviors, protectors, gods, goddesses and even victims, but never as human even by those who claim to love us and are fighting for our right to live.
Step Three: Return to Normalcy
After approximately two to three weeks, social media feeds return to normal. The only time you see Black Lives Matter is on a bumper sticker or t-shirt. Occasionally a stray “ally” will randomly bring up police brutality as a totem of how “woke” they are, but otherwise we’re back to “normal.” It’s a normal where Black people being murdered may not be trending, but it’s still happening every single day.
Black people continue on knowing that any day could be their last and to live it as such, while “allies” get the luxury of planning for tomorrow.
Step Four: “Not Guilty”
After all of this, months pass and a trial is held. I wait just to hear the same words over again — that the murderer will not be convicted. They get to walk after being able to tell their side of the story, something their victim can’t do from a grave.
This is what happens every time. I never expect more or better. How could I when there’s 400-plus year’s worth of a country and system doing what’s wrong over what’s right? Faith alone feels like a privilege that’s not allotted to us.
Step four is the most heartbreaking step. It’s a reminder of how little my life matters in the grand scheme of things, and how even if I am ever unjustly harmed it will still be seen as just. Today, however, is different.
“Derek Chauvin found guilty of all three charges in the murder of George Floyd.”
This is a deviation from a mold that’s been set for hundreds of years. Instagram stories are starting to fill up with people celebrating that he’s been convicted. Twitter hashtags #THANKYOUGOD and #GUILTY are trending. The world is celebrating and yet here I am numb.
Love bombing is a tactic typically used with abusers to lure the abused back into a false sense of safety. They’re showered in gifts, compliments and promises that the abuser will do better, only for them to slip up at a later date and time, starting the cycle all over again. Having been abused myself, this is what I’m reminded of watching the trial come to a close and seeing everyone, especially that of the non-Black community, celebrate. It’s reminiscent of being hugged by your abuser, or McDonald’s lying and telling you that “the ice-cream machine is fixed.”
This doesn’t feel like a “win.” Yes, it is on paper. This is good. This is a step towards accountability, however he gets to sit in a jail cell the rest of his life while George Floyd is six feet under. For once the system is on “our side” but if they could come to this conclusion, why couldn’t they do that for Breonna Taylor? Sandra Bland? Trayvon Martin?
This is a “win” on paper and I know it is. While this isn’t the only form of justice that can be had in this situation, it is a form of justice we very rarely see. Derek Chauvin being convicted is a good thing and that’s an irrefutable fact, however I still have a pit in my stomach unlike any other.
Tonight, April 20, 2021, America decided that Black lives do matter, but will that still be the case tomorrow morning? When the next cop is on trial for murdering a Black person, will they side with us then too, or do what they’ve been known to do and actively take a stance against us?
I don’t have the answer, but what I do know and want to make very clear is that this isn’t “proof” that the system is changing. In the same way the emancipation proclamation didn’t end slavery and electing Obama didn’t end racism, Derek Chauvin being convicted will not end police brutality. We still have to do the work that comes with abolishing the system that was put in place to protect white supremacy before it could ever protect its people.
This trial may be over in our favor, but a man still lost his life and that can never be replaced.
May George Floyd forever rest in power, and may his family forever be protected and loved.
Here are resources for Black community members from The Mighty’s Digital Toolkit for Prioritizing Your Mental Health: