Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
Derek Chauvin was found guilty three times over, convicted of the death of George Floyd by a jury of his peers.
The verdict is in. Now, we all know who killed George Floyd.
That’s certain, crystal clear like the tears I cried in sweet relief.
Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. It became a breath prayer, one that I often repeat. But I had my doubts.
Like Thomas, the Jesus disciple who needed to see Jesus’ scars after his resurrection in order to believe, I needed justice to show me and show up in the flesh and blood of the jury.
I needed justice to roll up its sleeves and do the hard work of accountability. Show me that you mean what you say, “Equal justice under the law.”
Stand up and show me that no one is above the law, that you have a spine and a modicum of respect for the life of George Floyd.
Show me that you are not blind, that you could see Derek Chauvin killing him, that you have ears to hear Floyd’s blood crying out from the street.
I needed to see justice done with my own eyes – not next time, but this time. Or I would never believe in justice again.
I heard as much from family and friends – that if there would be no justice for George Floyd, then justice did not exist.
I heard the same sentiment from people I met with and spoke to during my trip to Minneapolis in the days after the verdict’s announcement.
We need not ever mention or acknowledge it. We would never again have faith in it. Because for us and so many others across the country, this was an open-and-shut case.
The guilt of Derek Chauvin was as evident as the smirk on his face as he kneeled on George Floyd’s neck.
If justice looked the other way this time, we would not look again for justice anytime or anywhere. Because either you are even-handed and fair-minded, or you are not. And if not, then you are not justice, and we need to look for another.
We were looking for both procedural and retributive justice, both a fair process and an outcome that punished Chauvin for his callous actions.
Restorative justice wasn’t an option, as no verdict could put things back the way they were.
Whatever the jury’s decision, George Floyd’s life had been taken and no community day marked by staged photos could take the image of his last moments away.
No amount of singing or laughter, no matter the words spoken or declarations made, we could still hear Floyd, “Sir. Please. I can’t breathe. Mama. I’m about to die. Everything hurts.”
Floyd was desperate for help. So, let’s give him some air, give him some breathing room to fully air his grievances.
Let’s hear him out. Let’s believe him immediately and not minutes later.
No, we will not be right back to our regularly scheduled programming after a commercial break. Instead, America will need to look Floyd in the face, give his community space and time to grieve.
This is not about attention spans but how far the extrajudicial murder of African American people has spanned U.S. history. We say his name, and thousands more stand beside him as he has joined a cloud of witnesses that call into question America’s judgment.
This is not over, as there has been a violation of a neighbor and basic principles. A covenant has been broken. A trust has been violated, which will require more time to seal again, to gain again.
American politicians look to change the laws with H.R. 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which aims to change policing practices, to hold officers accountable for misconduct and offers a framework that rids policing of racialized profiling.
A day after the guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial, a U.S. federal investigation was launched to examine the policing practices of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Still, I have my doubts and more questions than answers. Because George Floyd being murdered by Derek Chauvin was not the answer, not the solution to crime in his city or mine.
Howard Zehr writes in The Little Book on Restorative Justice, “Restorative justice involves changing our questions.”
We don’t need more blame-shifting questions, more gaslighting questions but questions that guide us, that acknowledge the harm done and that move us toward healing.
Questions like, “What can I do to help? What do you need from me in this moment? How can we make this better?”
And there are more questions being asked in the case of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, killed by former officer Kim Potter after a traffic stop and just 20 minutes away from where the Derek Chauvin case was being tried.
Today, I need justice to prove that it meant what it said. I need justice to say it again, “Guilty.”