Edward Simon Cruz
May 25th marked a full year since the killing of George Floyd. Last month, a long-awaited conviction against police officer Derek Chauvin was announced. Guilty on all three counts. Let’s talk about it.
Was it accountability or was it justice?
Nona: We live in a country where the conviction against a man’s murder is applauded. Following the trial, my news feeds were plastered with the words justice, celebration, victory. News feeds that appeared only after a year of protests and the rise of a sociopolitical movement told America that it had a severe and distressing race problem. A problem they have consistently and conveniently ignored before. “This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America,” Biden had said after the verdict. If Chauvin’s trial really was “a march towards justice”, why doesn’t it feel like we’ve taken that giant step forward? It’s because doing the bare minimum isn’t a march. It’s not even a walk. To provide justice is to rightfully serve, to repair, to rework. Six police killings occurred 24 hours after the trial. From the end of the trial until now, that number has risen to 64 and has shown no sign of stopping. Chauvin’s conviction shows accountability, not justice. Accountability is acknowledging what is wrong. Justice is acting on that acknowledgement and making sure it doesn’t happen again. We shouldn’t have to applaud a system built to serve the people for doing its job. We shouldn’t have to hold a worldwide rally to get our criminal justice system to listen. We shouldn’t mistake accountability for justice. Because accountability and justice are not the same. And they never will be.
Can we consider George Floyd’s death a “self-sacrifice”?
Taylor: Short answer: No, we can’t. Self-sacrifice is defined as “the giving up of one’s own interests or wishes in order to help others or advance a cause” (Oxford Dictionary). George Floyd’s death was a murder, not self-sacrifice. For his death to be a sacrifice, he would have to willingly give up his life for the cause — that cause being the Black Lives Matter movement. However, he didn’t. He died due to the racist and negligent actions of another human being, not because he gave himself up to be a martyr. To call George Floyd’s death a sacrifice, thanking him for “giving up his life” for the cause as many like Nancy Pelosi have done recently is diminishing his death to be something less gruesome than it was. What made George Floyd’s death the prime example for police brutality was the fact that he didn’t want to die, that he spent his last breaths hoping his life wouldn’t end. To say his death was a “self-sacrifice” makes him seem like a hero. He wasn’t a hero, nor did he want to be. He was a victim and a regular man with a life that was cut short undesirably. He did not wake up with the intention of dying that day. George Floyd was not a “self-sacrifice.” He was a man that was killed because of police brutality. Those two are not synonymous.
Were you surprised by the outcome of the trial? Why or why not?
Edward: Whether Chauvin was found guilty or acquitted, I would not have been surprised. There’s something disturbing about the fact that a person could be acquitted for a murder committed in broad daylight and captured on a video seen by millions around the world, and it’s even more unsettling that such an acquittal was entirely plausible. It thus became all the more relieving to see a guilty verdict reached, especially in such a short amount of time. I was not necessarily surprised — as should be the case following a murder that was committed in broad daylight and captured on a video seen by millions around the world — but I was also relieved that amid our long history of grappling with injustice and a lack of accountability, twelve people were still capable of doing the right thing.
Is there still hope?
Yes. This decision will not make us complacent, nor do I expect it to — rather, I hope and believe that we will continue to remember George Floyd and everyone else who has unjustly left us as we continue seeking answers and pushing for reforms. Public support for Black Lives Matter has dipped since its peak last summer, but the movement is still very much alive, and its influence is very much present. As we reflect on where we’ve come, let us remember where we can still go.
Yes. While Chauvin’s verdict doesn’t signify tangible, long-term change, it serves as a reminder for the world that police brutality is finally being taken seriously. We can’t bring back George Floyd or MaKhia Bryant or Daunte Wright. What we can do is realize that justice means keeping our people alive, not punishing their killers.
Yes. The aftermath of the death of George Floyd proved that there is. But the backlash that George Floyd – after his death – faced and the amount of time it took for Derek Chauvin to be found guilty proves that America has a long way to go. However, there is hope that we can still create a country where we don’t have to worry about being killed because of our skin color. Although it’s far in the future, it’s in our future nonetheless.
Picture Source: News Nation Now