Columns, Opinion

Letter from the Editor: We have no justice in a broken system


On all the counts filed against him — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is guilty for the murder of George Floyd.

Despite the long wait, enduring the dread of a hypothetical “not guilty” and the unfathomable pain of watching another criminal officer walk away unscathed, I have not found solace in the aftermath of this trial. If anything, I have felt continued discomfort.

Floyd’s death undoubtedly sparked a rage that rippled across the country and world. Fed up with law enforcement’s continued, violent disregard for Black lives, people moved to the streets to protest, march and demand Black people be seen as more than the threat they’ve been wrongfully painted as.

But, Floyd was not a martyr. His death was not noble. He was not brave for sacrificing his life because there was no sacrifice — he had no say in the matter. Floyd cried out for his mother in between gasps of air as Chauvin slowly and painfully stole his last breath like he needed it for himself.

Floyd did not put his life on the line for us. He was not a brave soldier who went to battle for the Black Lives Matter movement. He was a human being, a father, a son and a friend who woke up one morning unsuspecting that he would be murdered on camera for the world to see.

In Floyd’s most vulnerable state, the world stopped and watched Chauvin abuse the God-like power of his badge.

I’ve never watched the video of the murder all the way through, but I’ve seen enough clips and photos of Chauvin’s boastfulness as he drove his knee into Floyd’s neck, not yet knowing the city he “protected” would soon go up in flames.

I truly doubted Chauvin would be convicted of his crimes, and that is deeply saddening. The evidence was laid bare, right in front of our eyes. Yet, my profound distrust of the U.S. criminal “justice” system served as a reminder of our bleak reality: White people can get away with crimes they’re clearly guilty of and Black people can’t even get away with their life, regardless of their actions.

Alexia Nizhny/DFP STAFF

For Black people, we’re guilty until proven innocent, and this capital failure continues to take our lives.

When a system perpetuates this mindset, one victory — in this case, Chauvin’s guilty verdict — doesn’t mean we are free at last. We should not have to celebrate and exhale a sigh of relief the way I know so many of us did. There is no question Chauvin is guilty, so why were we all scared to hear the verdict?

Floyd wouldn’t have received justice if his death wasn’t captured on camera, didn’t spark such large protests or didn’t so painfully capture the absurdity of power handed to police officers.

To say he even received justice would be a stretch. Because of the constant failures of our system and the lengths we have to go to to achieve a guilty verdict for a visible murder, Floyd did not receive true justice.

Justice is fairness. Justice is a protection of rights. Justice is impartial of our race.

The only justice in this situation would be if Floyd were still alive, so the system already failed him — regardless of the trial’s outcome. We cannot praise the system for doing what it’s supposed to do: convict a murderer for his crimes.

The name George Floyd has been tacked onto a long list of Black people who have been killed by the police. On paper, sure, his murderer walked out of the courtroom in handcuffs. However, the police force is still riddled with many “bad apples.” In fact, it’s rather rotten to its core.

My heart aches for the people who have not received any form of justice — not even this skewed perception of it — and I wonder if they ever will. But I also know the answer does not lie in one guilty verdict.

Change comes from the ground up, and we can’t use Chauvin’s conviction to justify pausing our efforts toward racial justice.

Growing up with a Black father and brothers, I fear the all-too-real inevitability of them getting pulled over for a routine traffic stop — something that should be so normal and easy, but has turned deadly for many.

When the day comes that I feel comfortable with my father going on a run in a hoodie and sweats, I will have noticed change. When my family doesn’t have to sit down and have somber conversations instructing my brother on what to do when he gets pulled over, I will have noticed change. When I don’t tense up around a police car, I will have noticed change.

We have normalized our extreme trepidation around police as a way to protect ourselves against an inhumane system that has proven time and time again the same simple truth: Being Black means your right to life is jeopardized by your mere existence, and Chauvin’s verdict does nothing to change that.

But I know why this verdict is simultaneously a cause for celebration. We have waited nearly a year for Chauvin to be held accountable for his actions, and his murder charges signal that the change we need is on its way — we’re just not there yet.

I am happy Chauvin will be jailed for his crimes, but I will not become complacent and naively believe this verdict solved any of our country’s problems.

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  1. Powerful and Moving! Your words are inspiring and this piece made me cry. Every time I read your work I can feel every emotion and see everything you see. You Colbi Tate Edmonds are going to change the world. Even though I am states away you feel right next to me. I am so proud to be your mom. Love you.

  2. Great article

  3. Awesome article!