As a Black woman in America, it’s easy to feel overlooked, silenced, and unseen in almost everything. No matter how many degrees I obtain, how diligently I work at my craft, or above and beyond I go to present myself in the most regal fashion, I will always have that inevitable reminder on my shoulder, because, let’s face it, this is not my homeland.
Watching a Black man die—no, watching a human being die—in broad daylight is something I’ll never be able to etch out of my brain. Former police officer Derek Chauvin’s callousness and disregard for 46-year-old George Floyd’s constant screams of “I can’t breathe” are chilling and cold-hearted. Floyd’s death was at the hands of a police officer, someone we are taught as kids to trust and respect. Yet, in the times we live in, it seems police get little to no prison time, which only encourages such behaviors to persist.
An NPR investigation has found that since 2015, police officers have fatally shot at least 135 unarmed Black men and women nationwide. NPR also reviewed police, court, and other records to examine the details of the cases. And at least 75% of the officers were white.
Chauvin’s trial was a burden. I didn’t want to tune in to it. But it felt mandatory that I watch because I needed to hear the verdict, which I both dreaded and longed for. George Floyd’s family deserved justice, and as a community, we all had suffered enough watching George’s death play out before our very eyes. Justice for sure had to be served this time, right? I mean, with all of the firsthand evidence, there’s no way Chauvin could get away with cold-blooded murder.
The entire ordeal brought me back to the night of Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. I vividly recall sitting at the edge of my mom’s bed, eyes glued to the TV. We both were anxiously anticipating the outcome of the presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain. When the election results came in, all I could do was sit in shock and cry. There was an overwhelming sense of disbelief, as I never imagined living to see a Black president, which was my first experience of “being heard” through my vote.
Through writing, seeing protests, and being aware, those same feelings were brought up again with all of the Black people dying unnecessarily from police shootings. Waiting for the Chauvin verdict on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 20, 2021, had me on the edge of my seat in my car, as I drove from lunch with my niece. Hearing that he was convicted of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter was a surreal feeling. I was stunned because I’d already decided in my head that he would get off with a lesser charge due to a technicality or slip somewhere in the trial. My heart swelled with a host of emotions as the verdict sunk in and I processed it all. I felt heard as a Black individual and participant in the Black Lives Matter movement; I felt overwhelmed for George Floyd’s family, especially for Gianna Floyd, George Floyd’s daughter. They had received justice, but I knew that true justice would be having George here in the present. I felt it sent a powerful message out to racist police and higher-ups who have been skating by with crimes they’ve committed.
I hope other people of color feel the same sentiment as it pertains to injustice and opportunities as it stands currently. I feel there is an open door right now. We are being acknowledged. Our voices matter. We are essential, and our stories are representations of such. I’d like to think that our fallen predecessors have created a lane for us to use and exhibit our due diligence for the next generation. If the pandemic and racial policing have taught me anything, it’s that nothing goes without recognition—especially in the age of technology, where eyewitnesses can record an unarmed Black man wrongfully mishandled and deprived of air by a white police officer who refuses to relieve his restraints. Ultimately, we are all accountable for our actions and must all deal with and accept what’s to come accordingly.
Yet the fact remains we have a lot of ground to cover. According to data from Mapping Police Violence, of the 7,666 police officers who killed people in the U.S. between 2013 and 2019, just 25 were convicted. In 74 of those cases, officers were charged but not convicted.
“But in the vast majority of cases (99%), officers were not charged with any crime whatsoever,” The Guardian reports.
Derek Chauvin’s trial isn’t over until sentencing day. I’m sure it will be an emotional day for me, as well as for millions of others. No amount of years in prison will bring George Floyd back, and in many ways, it seems his family is being cheated because Chauvin still gets to breathe. Even with the millions that Floyd’s family is due to receive through the settlement in a civil lawsuit, nothing will compare to the loss of their loved one. He won’t be there for his daughter’s graduations, sweet-16 birthday, and other important milestones in life. He won’t be there to protect her; yet, Chauvin had no remorse when Floyd cried out for his deceased mother when he could barely muster up a breath.
I feel heard, but we must continue to unite peacefully and effectively to make our voice mighty. This doesn’t just end with George Floyd—injustice continues daily. Sixteen-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was shot and killed by a police officer about 20 minutes before Chauvin was found guilty of murdering Floyd. This has to stop now because it’s already at its worst. Black Lives Matter!