Derek Chauvin was just found guilty. You know, the guy that knelt on George Floyd’s neck for almost 10 minutes until he died.
I feel a lot of emotions right now. Relief. Happiness. Sadness.
Like, a part of me is happy that he was convicted because of course he was guilty. And I’m relieved that justice was served in this particular instance. But I’m also sad that this even happened in the first place, and I still recognize that we have a long way to go.
Here’s what Derek Chauvin’s conviction means for us…
It means that Black Lives DO Matter!
One of my favorite comedy skits of all time is this one where Dave Chapelle talks about black hostages and how they don’t exist because “terrorists don’t take black hostages”. Give it a watch (but not at work because super NSFW language abounds!)
Why is that skit so funny? It talks about one of the hidden truths in our society that we typically don’t say out loud. That truth is…
Black lives are worth less than white lives.
We can tell that’s true because terrorists comically don’t take black hostages. Or, to give a not-so-comical example, we know that’s true because the Right tries to throw in all these extraneous factoids to make you think that the murder of George Floyd was somehow…not that bad.
You’ll hear that George Floyd…
- Had committed prior crimes in the past
- Was Black and that “Black-on-Black” crime is higher than other color combinations
- Had been accused of another crime when police arrived (using a counterfeit $20 bill)
…and are those all true? Yes.
More importantly though, should any of those matter? NO THEY SHOULD NOT!!
Seriously, buying goods using a counterfeit $20 bill is possibly the lamest crime you could ever be accused of. For Fuck’s sake, I don’t even check MY OWN dollar bills to make sure they’re legit before I go to the store and buy shit. I’m not even sure how to do that??
I always assumed that if a cashier discovered one of my paper bills was counterfeit then he’d just hand it back to me and tell me to pay with something else. But hey, that’s apparently not how it works if you’re Black? Apparently, if it’s discovered that one of your dollar bills is fake then you die. Let that sink in…
If you EVER hand a fake dollar bill to a cashier (even by accident) while Black, then YOU DIE?!
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME AMERICA!?!?
All that matters is that one man knelt on the neck of another man for almost 10 minutes until that man died. That’s all that should matter in this case. Anything else is irrelevant.
We’ll know that black lives finally DO matter when we get to that point.
It means that police accountability should exist
Growing up, I always wondered who keeps the police accountable. If the police exist to stop “bad guys” then what happens if the bad guys ARE the police? The answer that eight-year-old me was presented with is that the police stop themselves from being bad.
You see, I grew up watching movies like The Negotiator and Speed where the villain turned out to be law enforcement themselves. The bad police were always stopped by the good police, so I figured that’s how it worked in real life as well. That’s the answer that satisfied my eight-year-old brain.
I’m not satisfied with that answer anymore.
Today, I realize that police brutality exists on a systemic level. That means it’s not just about individual “good apples” or “bad apples”. It means that the system itself encourages such behavior from the police officers serving within it.
Cops are rewarded for making arrests and shielded for killing people on the job, even if they were totally innocent. They’re trained in the use of deadly force and nothing else, so that’s all that they know how to do. And if they ever do something shady, they can comically investigate themselves and find themselves guilty of no wrongdoing.
It’s not about individual good cops or bad cops. It’s that the system itself turns individuals into “bad cops”. A huge part of that is because there’s been no accountability for the police.
Derek Chauvin’s conviction is a step in the right direction because it means that accountability for police officers is finally starting to exist.
It means that we should rethink the role that police play in our communities
Let’s talk about “defund the police”. One of the best core messages I’ve ever seen wrapped up in one of the worst deliveries I’ve ever seen.
It sounds scary. How are the police possibly supposed to protect us if we’ve defunded them? When I first heard about “defunding the police”, the first thing I pictured was police officers with slingshots and toy swords fighting violent criminals with AK-47’s. How on Earth is that going to work?
Even if we accept that police kill a lot of innocent civilians and should be defunded…what about the violent criminals? Are we just supposed to “take our chances” with them?
“Defund the police” seems weird at first glance. It makes more sense when you start to rethink the role that police officers should play in our communities.
You see, police officers are capable only of destroying. Of subtracting one’s freedom or liberty. Of using bullets and handcuffs that inflict pain but can never create anything. We think of police officers as “keepers of the peace”, but the only way they do so is through the threat of force.
The use of police officers should be used as a last resort.
That is what “defund the police” is all about. It doesn’t mean “abolish the police” or “take our chances with violent criminals”. It means acknowledging that police officers do play an important role as an emergency service, while also recognizing that if we reallocated more of our resources from our “last resort” to our “first resorts” then we’d have fewer emergencies to deal with in the first place.
What “first resorts” am I talking about here? Mental health support systems so people can get help. Social support systems so people would have food and learn life skills instead of turning toward stealing to feed themselves. If we focused a lot more on these then we wouldn’t have so many violent criminals to deal with in the first place.
After all, if the New York Police Depart has enough cash to build themselves a robot dog literal Terminator then maybe they’ve got too much money and should be defunded.
Please join me in solidarity
We’ve made a lot of progress, but it’s not over yet. Here’s a few ways you can help keep up the good fight:
- Vote! Get educated in the elections happening around you—not just the big ones for President or whomever—but also the smaller, local ones and vote.
- Donate to causes that you believe in.
- Let the people around you know who you support and what you stand for.
I’m doing all three of the above, and I hope that you’ll join me.
Even if you can’t vote because of citizenship laws or whatever…even if you can’t afford to donate right now because times are tough…something as small as the conversations you have with the people around you create a ripple. Those ripples add up to something huge.
Let’s create a world where Black Lives Matter!