Many around the world are on edge today. People everywhere are wondering what the outcome will be of the Derek Chauvin trial; the white, killer cop from the Minneapolis Police Department who defiantly and brutally pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds in broad daylight, while several onlookers screamed and begged for him to stop.
Three other cops stood by aiding and abetting Chauvin and are expected to stand trial later this summer. The arrest and murder of Floyd, an unarmed, non-resistant, handcuffed Black man on May 25, 2020 stopped Minneapolis and the world in its tracks in the midst of a global pandemic and reminded those who wanted to pay attention that America has always been in the midst of a pandemic of racial hatred and the spread of white supremacy.
As African Americans, we have always had to watch our backs, cover ourselves, and take special precautions to protect our lives from the tyranny of white supremacy and white terrorism. We have rarely, if ever, been able to rely upon the judicial system to protect our lives, livelihoods, and bodies from white violence in its variety of forms. The systems that are supposed to protect us, have time and time again reinforced the notion that we are not worthy to be protected and that our lives don’t matter.
In the city of Minneapolis, activists, organizers, and community members have consistently been marching, demonstrating, demanding policy and law changes, and even running for office over the last six years in an attempt to bring an end to police violence and the killing of innocent Black people by police. We have marched alongside family members who have lost their loved ones to police violence. We have seen their trauma and witnessed the deep reservoirs of pain and the grief that they suffer, while still not receiving justice.
Every time we are forced to watch a video or hear a firsthand account of a Black person killed by police it cuts like a knife because we know that somehow the system will find a way to diminish the life of that Black man, woman, or child, and provide cover for the cop who killed them. We have seen this same story play out again and again in the Twin Cities and elsewhere in the country, and yet we have seen very few justice-oriented systematic changes to end systemic racism within policing.
We are under no illusions about the fact that even with the horrific bystander video that was seen around the world at least 50 million times in the killing of George Floyd, it is absolutely possible that Chauvin could still be acquitted.
We have had to sit through the jury selection process, which has reinforced the notion that the justice system is inherently unfair. We watched as Juror No. 76, a Black male elder who had previously served in the military and who lived just blocks away from where Floyd was killed, was summarily dismissed from the jury pool after answering questions truthfully about his negative experiences with police. Juror No. 76 talked about experiencing racism and his concerns that killer cops have been allowed to go free. He said that maybe if he was in the courtroom during the trial, he would be able to figure out why that was the case. Juror No. 76 was arguably the most qualified person to serve on the jury, given his lived experiences that were akin to Floyd’s experiences as a Black man living in Minneapolis. Yet, we saw the system fail us again by treating Juror No. 76 as if his perspective and real-world experiences did not matter.
This example begs the question of how can we be expected to trust in a system that constantly discounts Black voices, Black bodies and Black people’s lived experiences? The short answer is, we don’t.
The system has failed us and is not deserving of our trust. Even still, we must be steadfast and persistent in demanding justice for George Floyd. He has become symbolic of the faces, names, and stories of thousands of people around the country and the world who have been killed by police. Similarly, Chauvin is symbolic of the racial hatred and white supremacy that is inherent in police departments, as well as the origins of policing which began as slave patrols.
Specifically in Minneapolis, in spite of the odds, we are demanding, seeking and expecting a 2nd degree murder and manslaughter conviction against Derek Chauvin. A murder conviction in this case will send a signal to white police officers in Minnesota and elsewhere that they are no longer above the law. Up until this point, no white officer in Minnesota has ever been charged, let alone convicted, of killing a Black person.
George Floyd deserves justice, and so do all of the other stolen lives. And the world needs to know that in Minneapolis, we won’t rest until we get it.
Nekima Levy Armstrong is a Minneapolis civil rights attorney, activist, and Executive Director of Wayfinder Foundation. Levy Armstrong previously served as President of the Minneapolis NAACP and a law professor at the University of St. Thomas. Insta: @nekimal Twitter: @nvlevy
(Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)