Derek Chauvin Was Found Guilty On All Charges. This Is Just A First Step.

The jury came back. The verdict was read. And the the tension felt across the globe lifted as the news spread:

 
 
 
 
 
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Derek Chauvin, who killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for approximately nine minutes last year, was found guilty of second-degree and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter.

 
 
 
 
 
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This announcement has happened at a critical point in our nation, one that will be printed in history books for years to come. Thanks to video evidence from Darnella Frazier’s video of the incident moving the jury, Chauvin was confirmed to be a murderer. But the fight is still far from over. Read on for why this is accountability rather than justice, how we must continue this movement, and the struggles America continues to face.

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Accountability Vs. Justice

Some spread the word around the word “justice.” But this is not justice: this is accountability

 
 
 
 
 
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Stevante Clark’s brother, Stephon, was shot by Sacramento police in 2018. The officers were never charged.  While Clark sees this as moving forward, he does not believe we are anywhere near the end. “Derek Chauvin was in the courtroom, but America is on trial,” he said. “I’ve always said as well there’s a difference between justice and accountability. We are still fighting for justice. We just seen accountability.”

 
 
 
 
 
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The definition of accountability, defined by Merriam-Webster, is “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” 

Justice, on the other hand, is defined as “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.”

Justice would mean Floyd would be with us today, not having his name next to “drug addict” and “a counterfeit $20 bill” in a courtroom. Accountability means his murderer must face what he has done. 

 
 
 
 
 
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It is with these definitions that we see: we have not had impartial adjustment as a country. And Chauvin, who has not yet filed an appeal (but could), is arguably not taking responsibility for his actions – our legal system and a jury did that for him, instead. It’s a great step in the right direction, but it’s only that: a step.

 
 
 
 
 
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The Government’s Reaction

With the verdict comes a push for the Senate to pass the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.” The act would end chokeholds and immunity for police officers, ban no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, mandate data collection on police encounters, and hold problematic officers accountable through a police misconduct registry. It would also ban racial and religious profiling, while directing funding to community-based policing programs.

 
 
 
 
 
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It passed the House, and President Biden is pushing for the legislation to reach his desk. In a televised address following the verdict, Biden said: “George Floyd was murdered almost a year ago. There’s meaningful reform legislation in his name. [This] legislation [would] tackle systemic misconduct in police departments, to restore trust between law enforcement and the people they’re entrusted to serve and protect.”

While the bill passed the House, Senate Republicans have voiced concern, surmising that police officers wouldn’t be able to do their jobs properly. Another plan was drafted by Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, lessening the use of chokeholds and increasing federal reporting of police force and no-knock warrants. However, Democrats stopped the plan in its tracks, expressing that it did not go far enough to address the significance of police brutality.

On top of this, the U.S. Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, began an investigation into discrimination within the Minneapolis police department, putting “pattern or practice” — when the evidence shows that discriminatory actions were the defendant’s regular practice — to test.

 
 
 
 
 
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“If the Justice Department concludes that there’s reasonable cause to believe there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing, we will issue a public report of our conclusions,” said Garland.


In the Face of Accountability Comes More Tragedy

Minutes prior to when the Chauvin verdict was given, yet another shooting occurred in Ohio – this time, a 16-year-old Black girl, Ma’khia Bryant. Ma’khia wielded a knife toward two other women in self-defense. Her neighbor, Tay Jones, explained that “somebody tried to jump her.” It was Ma’khia who called 911 for help. And when the police arrived, just as she’d wanted, police killed her insteadwithin seconds of arrival.

Police Chief Michael Woods in a press conference said that he did not know of any de-escalation techniques which were put into place prior to the shooting. On camera, you can hear a man yell “she’s just a fucking kid, man!” Hazel Bryant, Ma’khia’s aunt, put it bluntly: “she was loving. She didn’t deserve to die like a dog in the street.” 

Chilling video has emerged since then of an officer yelling “Blue Lives Matter!” at the scene to those surrounding the area. In the press conference, Police Chief Woods made no mention of this detail. 

Neighbor Ira Graham III told The Washington Post that one police officer arrived on scene with a mask that said “Blue Lives Matter.” Graham asked the ultimate rhetorical question: “We know blue lives matter, because you know why? When police are killed, the person is brought in and justice is served.


How We Can Reform the Police 

In an article by Vox, “how to reform American police,” it begins with looking within: police apologizing and taking responsibility for their actions, even those who have not practiced violent use of force. A common technique to deflect blame is “Blue Lives Matter.” However, blue lives are a choice – Black lives are not.

 
 
 
 
 
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Training cops against racial biases is also crucial. Some police stations have blatantly encouraged racism, such as in North Miami Beach, Florida, where shooting targets were mugshots of Black people. But most racism is internalized, locked in the subconscious. Nobody wants to admit that they’re racist, and some will defend themselves by saying that it’s been ingrained in them.

 
 
 
 
 
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Another way to avoid police brutality in situations that can be managed without force: inviting mental health responders to scenes that do not require handcuffs and a gun. The City of Oakland, in California, launched their Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland (MACRO) Civilian Crisis Response Program, in which those with medical and mental health training respond to non-violent emergency calls.


How You Can Help Fight for Police Reform 

To help, you must first recognize any biases you may have. Do you believe that racism is a huge problem, but pull your purse closer when you see a Black person? It may be subconscious, learned in childhood, but it is still affecting you today. Educate yourself. Challenge your subconscious beliefs

 
 
 
 
 
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While you can fight against this inequality, you may still hold on to biases. The University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health published a document on racial microaggressions you may present, like by saying you “don’t see color” or making them feel like an “Alien of their own land” with questions such as “where are you originally from?” Practice actively rejecting these thoughts. Regularly examine and reflect.

 
 
 
 
 
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Reach out to your elected officials to push for police reform. Your governmental figures’ contacts are all over the internet – send emails, leave voicemails, demand change. If a political figure is inundated with reactions calling for change and is still engaging in racial ignorance, donate to organizations that are dedicated to fighting against governmental figures, such as Black Lives Matter, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the ACLU. 

Finally, speak out. When there is yet another death in the Black community, say their names. Spread it on social media. If you know someone who engages in racist rhetoric, call them out. Have uncomfortable conversations. Educate those around you. Stand for what’s right. But most importantly: listen to what the Black community is telling you. They know best. Open your ears so they are heard.

 
 
 
 
 
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Still Further To Go – MUCH Further

This is, absolutely a win, and a huge step in the right direction. No longer can we say “alleged” murderer — Chauvin is a murderer. Period.

Unfortunately, this is because the bar is so low. With so many acquittals, cases dropped, and nonexistent charges (and, therefore, nonexistent consequences), the world is celebrating what should be the bare minimum. In broad daylight, with people watching and video being filmed, Chauvin was still given a jury to potentially decide that he was not at fault. It is sickening to stomach that fact.

The police are supposed to serve and protect, and we have let those who have failed Black people walk free. It’s time we ALL acknowledge the problem in our world and actively fight back against it. The status quo has lasted for too. damn. long.

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If you’re interested in insight from those in the Black community, listen to Big Talk’s most recent podcast discussion on the verdict. How are you helping to fight against police brutality and racial discrimination? Let us know in the comments.


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