The jury got it right. Why does it feel like for the first time, a policeman will actually be held accountable for his wrongful actions? As my daughter says, the police are here to enforce the law, but they are not above it. I’m so relieved. I’m not joyous. I’m just able to breathe. This wasn’t justice, though. It was merely accountability. Now we await sentencing and appeal.
Is this a tipping point in proving that Black lives matter? One can hope. However, I feel like we took 3 steps forward in the fight for social justice, and now there will be a major push back from conservatives who want to maintain systems of suppression that have existed for so long. Just like once we elected Democratic Senators in traditionally Republican Georgia, the Republican state lawmakers quickly passed laws limiting voting rights. As great as this verdict is, I’m waiting for the blow back.
It’s really difficult to fathom the mindset of anyone who now thinks our country is going to hell because someone in uniform was held accountable for murdering someone. Abuse of authority is wrong. Period.
Even in the conservative county where I live, it is rumored that the police here will be out in “full force” targeting Black drivers to pull over in the next few days. Or, in other words, doubling down on their normal. How can one begin to fathom how doing this is justified? Punishing everyone who looks like George Floyd for the rightful conviction of a man who murdered him?
We have a corridor along a major road that leads from the East End of Henrico into Hanover County. Cops sit there in pairs and pull people over for the most minor offenses, hoping they will find something bigger when they pull their records. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, as I used to do home health in that area. My husband used to be friends with a sheriff who used to brag about how many people he’d arrest using this tactic, almost always Black.
When I did home health, my best friend from grad school was my mentor. We had a couple of weeks together with many hours in the car and with lots of time to talk. One of our discussions took my breath away. We were talking about how we were raising our kids. We both have girls, but she has a son as well. She and her husband had to give him “the talk” about how to not get killed if he got pulled over. I had never thought about the dangers of being pulled over by the police. My biggest fear was getting a ticket. Her biggest fear, especially for her son, is that they don’t make it out alive. Until this conversation, it never occurred to me how different our realities are, just because she’s Black. We have the same degrees. We have the same job. We are both happily married and own our homes. But in this, we are not the same. It’s not fair.
I keep thinking about that scene in A Time to Kill, the screen adaptation of John Grishom’s book. Have you seen it? Starring Matthew McConaughey and Samuel L. Jackson. In the closing arguments of the trial, Matthew’s character has the jury close their eyes as he describes what happened to a little girl as she walked home, how she was abducted, raped, and tortured by two white men. He then asks the jury to picture that she is white, and everyone gasps, and finally understands why the father shooting her rapists was justified. That’s what white folks need to do. Don’t dismiss a tragedy for a black family because they don’t look like you. Think about how you would feel in their situation. Feel their pain. Feel their fear. Feel their frustration with a system designed to oppress them.
Furthermore, the meritocracy we subscribe to as Americans is all fine and dandy, however, the bootstraps are significantly longer for people of color and the poor. What we hold ideally as liberty and justice for all, that anyone can work hard and succeed, isn’t reality. It’s at best a means for hope, which we honestly can’t survive without. It’s at worst a government scheme designed to kill dreams. That is the truth.
Our society deteriorates when we dehumanize our neighbors. Excessive brutality by police is terrorism; targeting people of color for this is akin to genocide. To make a conscious choice to target a certain group, harass them for minor offenses, and kill over something as benign as a fake $20 bill or a hanging air freshener, while simultaneously peacefully arresting white men who committed mass murder, what does that say about our police system? And the after-the-arrest looking back to prior offenses or someone’s lifestyle to justify violence against them is also wrong. People are people. We are all human and deserving of respect. A white person’s life is not more valuable than someone’s of color.
Is there power in this verdict? I hope so. I hope this verdict is the beginning of reforming a system that doesn’t work for everyone. And although I have hope, I also fear that this is merely a token gesture in the big picture, and no real change will come from it. Let’s not let that be the case.
Black lives still matter.
What can we do right now? Contact your senators and let them know you support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act which has already passed the house. This offers fewer protections from prosecution for law enforcement while also making it clear what acts will not be tolerated under police control, including sexually assaulting people in custody. Read the linked article to find out more.
Don’t know how to reach your senators? Find out here.
Other resources for the movement:
The struggle to create wellness is made more difficult when we face unfairness. How can we feel well in a stressful, uncertain world? Discrimination happens in policing, it happens in retail, it happens in voting, it happens in healthcare, it happens in schools, it happens in church. No one in authority should abuse their power. We need real change now. How did you feel when the verdict was announced? As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.