Justice for George Floyd does not come with the conviction of one man by one jury in one court alone – it comes when the system that enabled Derek Chauvin is dismantled
George Floyd begged the police officer kneeling on his neck not to kill him on 25 May 2020. As he was handcuffed and his face was slammed into the ground, he called for his mother, shouted he couldn’t breathe, screamed that he was going to die. A crowd gathered, yelling at Derek Chauvin to stop, as the life was choked out of Floyd. If it weren’t for then 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, who filmed Floyd’s final moments and posted them on social media, the world may have never seen so clearly the brutality and inhumanity of it all. George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight.
In the aftermath of his death, Minneapolis Police put out a press release that said: “Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Centre by ambulance where he died a short time later.”
Of course, now we know the truth – a police officer had just murdered someone.
It is likely Chauvin is going to spend a significant amount of the rest of his life behind bars, sentenced for a crime he never thought he’d be convicted of: a white police officer murdering an unarmed Black man. Despite the seemingly never ending list of Black people being murdered and brutalised at the hands of police in the US, Chauvin is the first white police officer to be convicted in his home state of Minnesota.
When the guilty verdict was delivered, his eyes darted back and forth, his face concealed by a mask, the shock of the decision written across his eyes: this doesn’t happen to people like Chauvin. As he was handcuffed – an image that it will go down in history – millions across the world breathed a sigh of relief. Many said “justice” had been served. But it didn’t feel like full justice to me.
Justice for George Floyd can’t be decided by one man, one jury, or one courtroom. The circumstances that led to Floyd’s murder, the way he was murdered, and the consequences of it are far bigger than Derek Chauvin.
Living in fear of being beaten and harassed for the colour of your skin is a daily part of the Black American experience. Chauvin’s conviction alone will not remedy this, because this verdict is just one battle in a war for justice not just for Floyd, but for Black people across the US. The circumstances around Floyd’s death, and Chauvin’s behaviour, are not the single issue – they are a symptom of an issue that is marring US society.
This guilty verdict is a moment of accountability, not a moment of unbridled justice. It is about there finally being consequences for police killing Black people, but it is not the cure. It is a watershed moment, not a conclusion. And, of course, this is not just an American issue; there is a reason that Floyd’s death sent a shockwave around the world, with protests against racism towards Black people in over 60 countries.
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In Britain, Black parents up and down the country routinely have “The Talk” once their kids pass a certain age: what to do if you’re stopped by a police officer and how to behave. Because in this country, you’re more likely to die in police custody if you are Black. You are almost eight times more likely to be tasered by police if you are Black. You are five and a half times more likely to have force used against you if you are Black.
There is no doubt in my mind that if police in the UK had guns, the situation would be far worse in terms of mortality.
LaTonya Floyd, George Floyd’s sister, has even touched on these racial inequalities. “What I would say to the people in Britain is to hold on, hang in there,” she told The i Paper. “Always use George Floyd as an example, keep him in mind, protest in his name, because you see what happened here.” Her words come in the month after a fiercely criticised government report commissioned in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder found “no evidence” of institutional racism in the UK.
The pursuit of justice for George Floyd, and all those that came before him, and all those that will inevitably come after him, continues. Chauvin being held accountable for his actions is just one step in the path to justice. Only when the structural racism that facilitated Floyd’s murder are dismantled, will justice truly be served.
It will be when Black children like Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, can grow up in a world where they don’t fear their parents being murdered by police.
A world that doesn’t see their lives as less than because of the pigment of their skin.
A world where a Black person can live and be a father, a partner, a son, and a brother without their life being snuffed out by prejudice.