When we think of the day that Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts in the murder of George Floyd, let us remember that justice cannot be claimed from one verdict, nor can a turning point be signaled by a jury’s affirmation of one (former) police officer’s guilt. That the exhaustion, pain, and trauma that is the continuously lived experience of people of color, remains the work of those who have benefited from historic inequities and injustice to acknowledge and rectify. A small step forward cannot undo centuries of brutality. This is not to suggest that this moment – 330 days in the making – is not a time for release and relief, as expressed by Floyd’s family members. It is instead a critical reminder that racism is pervasive and embedded within each of the systems and institutions that claim to protect each person’s pathway to a better life – from health care to housing, education to economic security, and that the disparate treatment of Black Americans, particularly Black men, is deeply rooted in the history of both criminal justice and policing.
As we reflect on steps forward that were once deemed impossible but became reality through activism, sacrifice, and perseverance – those who benefit from institutionalized racism must continue to chip away at the calcified layers of systemic oppression that prevent the protection and advancement of people of color. Change will not materialize until those responsible for building, benefitting from, and maintaining those systems that dehumanize Black lives, permit bias and abuse by police, and uphold white supremacist ideology, act. Only when those who have been responsible are held accountable, and hold themselves accountable, for dismantling and rebuilding those systems, will people of color who have been persistently harmed – yet still bravely seeking pathways forward – receive equity and justice.