As the country watched, breathlessly waiting for the jury’s decision on whether or not George Floyd was “murdered” by a police officer, it felt as though the immediate future of our country hung in the balance. A mountain of historical evidence exists to prove that our system of justice and accountability does not work when it comes to abuse of power and police brutality.
A Mountainous Climb Toward Justice
As the country watched, breathlessly waiting for the jury’s decision on whether or not George Floyd was “murdered” by a police officer, it felt as though the immediate future of our country hung in the balance. A mountain of historical evidence exists to prove that our system of justice and accountability does not work when it comes to abuse of power and police brutality. Our brothers and sisters of color can attest to centuries of this abuse, brought to national consciousness and attention by stories such as the 1964 murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, and here again with George Floyd. And, yet for these few examples of justice served, there are countless others that bear witness, but are unresolved: Daunte Wright, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Atatiana Jefferson, Stephon Clarke, Botham Jean, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Tanisha Anderson, Travon Martin – the list goes on.
Because of the courage and presence of thought by a teenager with a cell phone, the trial of Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd presented an opportunity to prove history wrong.
When the guilty verdict was read, we felt the country breathe again in collective relief; yet, there is no joy or justice in this moment. This verdict was about accountability, not justice.
There is simply the recognition that, while we have gained a foothold in this mountainous climb toward justice, much work remains.
As individuals, as a community, as an institution, we must respond to this moment by continuing to demand accountability from our government and our police. We must continue to reflect on what we stand for in order to climb toward the mountaintop of justice. We must examine the very narrative we create about our own journey. We must identify the causes of inequity that we perpetuate until the systemic barriers to equity that persist in all of our institutions are removed.
It is important to acknowledge that despite this verdict, even having to process this tragedy has been traumatic, especially for people of color. The fact remains that George Floyd should still be alive; he should be able to watch his daughter grow up. As we hold space for his family, his loved ones, we also hold space for our students and community members who are grieving while feeling some semblance of relief.
We would like to offer space to process.
We urge you to find a trusted adult, friend, or health professional for support.
We welcome open, honest, dialogue, specifically from our students, to process emotions and to use their voices to create lasting change.
As Dr. King once said, “Let us not rest until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”