"I can’t breathe” - a phrase that will haunt many of us as the quest for social justice for people of colour continues. Almost a year ago, a handcuffed George Floyd was murdered by a police officer who kneeled on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. As the moment was captured on video and shared by millions of people, outrage and protests were sparked across the globe.
Now, months after the tragedy, a moment of relief has finally come: the jury unanimously convicted the police officer responsible, Derek Chauvin, for the murder of George Floyd. Chauvin was convicted on all counts, including charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. He is currently being held in a maximum-security prison, awaiting sentencing on June 16. While we celebrate the guilty verdict, there is much to be done before true justice is obtained – especially for the 181 people of colour who have been murdered by the police since Floyd’s death in May 2020. The system is still broken.
While we recognise this verdict as a step towards greater accountability for police officers and a victory in the war against racism, the trial itself was a reminder of how broken the justice system truly is. It took 330 days to confirm a murder that was caught on video tape. 330 days to confirm a murder that was witnessed by millions. It should not have taken longer than 9 minutes and 29 seconds for the jury to convict Derek Chauvin. As George Floyd called out for his mother and begged for his life he was met by a police officer with no regard for human life, no compassion and now, no sign of remorse. Derek Chauvin was an operational police officer who already had 18 complaints on his record and did not flinch as he knowingly, brutally suffocated another human being.
Something that strikes me through all of this is that George Floyd was simply going out to buy a pack of cigarettes, something I have done a hundred times over, yet he was murdered. It is frightening to see how quickly a person of colour can be killed without question or hesitation: at a traffic light, while sleeping, as a child playing with a toy, or as a South African on holiday in Hawaii. These cases are real and they hit home. Black lives matter. We need change in a system that continues to oppress people of colour. We demand to see change in a society that treats black lives as insignificant. While we celebrate justice for Floyd, his family, and people of colour everywhere, there is so much more to be done in a system where black people continue to be murdered by those who were trained to protect. This verdict does not mean that the system is fixed, not when people of colour live in fear of their lives. There is no justice in requiring a murder to be captured on video to ensure a conviction. There is no victory when police officers continue to racially profile, abuse, and kill people of colour. There is no freedom for people of colour while police officers like Derek Chauvin feel confident and untouchable as they murder without a flicker of hesitation.
While I was watching the news to hear the outcome of the Derek Chauvin-trial, I could not help but consider the possibility: what if he is not found guilty? What if he gets to walk away? George Floyd’s murder was caught on camera and viewed by millions but there was still doubt as to whether there would be any form of justice. What if this case wasn’t caught on tape? Would the power structures that oppress and stereotype black men as dangerous let Chauvin argue his way to freedom? Would Floyd’s murder be ignored and erased like the horrific stories of so many other innocent people of colour. There is a long way to go. We must continue to champion humanity over inhumanity and justice over injustice. We must speak out against racism, white supremacy, and protest against the flaws in the system that makes people of colour the victims of the very officers who swore to protect them.