Random thoughts on the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict…
I spoke to a friend last night who I know has been following the case closely and hoping for this outcome, but didn’t seem happy when it came. They could only see the continuing, larger problem of racist, power-hungry cops who view every person of color as a threat. I suggested taking this small victory for what it is and allowing for at least a bit of relief, but my words fell on deaf ears.
Still, perspective is important. The phrase “inflection point” came up again and again in the post-verdict analysis yesterday, but it’s a mistake to think this single judicial victory will mark the beginning of real change. Remember how we thought the mass murder of children in Newtown, Connecticut, would lead to better gun laws?
Public opinion may be on the right side, but how much legislative change do you expect, particularly in red states? Even if legal reforms are made, it might not be enough to change what individual cops do when it comes to oppressing people of color.
The verdict may cause Congress and state representatives to think the justice system will now handle the problem of systemic racism, so there’s no need for them to pass legislation. But at a minimum, it would be good to reinforce to law enforcement officers that minor offenses like passing a bad $20 bill or having an air freshener tree hanging from your rearview mirror are not punishable by the death penalty — and certainly not at curbside.
It sure would nice if the “good cops” we’re repeatedly told exist within police forces came out publicly today to say the verdict was correct, and that this “bad cop” deserves to go to jail for many years. It would also help if the “good cops” wouldn’t just stand around while a “bad cop” kills someone.
As Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said so eloquently in his post-verdict press conference, this was not justice, it was accountability.
The best line of the year may belong to special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, who ended the state’s strong case by rebutting the defense’s claims that George Floyd died because of his medical condition: “It’s not that George Floyd’s heart was too big. It’s that Derek Chauvin’s heart was too small.”