Opinions are the writer’s own and not those of Blavity's.
George Floyd should be alive today. Regrettably, the heinous acts committed by a group of officers resulted in his death. Now, America has once again been forced to accept a watered-down, delayed and second-class form of justice. As the Derek Chauvin trial unfolds in Minnesota, young people across the country, cohorts of millennials and Generation Z, will be processing the signal the verdict sends to them about the state of our justice system.
To better understand the debacle at play, we must explore what justice means in its truest form: the quality of being just, impartial or fair.
Justice would be a living and breathing George Floyd helping his young daughter with her homework. True fairness would be George Floyd’s neighborhood having the adequate investments needed to achieve the American dream without a constant struggle for equity. True impartiality should have been the removal of Derek Chauvin as a police officer after his first citizen complaint, not 18 complaints and a murder charge.
Sadly, George Floyd, his family, Black America and all those actually committed to justice won’t ever get the real justice they seek for all the lives lost at the hands of excessive policing and the unfettered spread of white supremacy throughout America.
Instead of working to change the status quo, democrats and republicans deny the truth, fudge facts and slow walk change that is desperately needed. Instead of working to treat the underlying symptoms, we have seen widespread denial that has exacerbated cases of police brutality, an entrenched system of failed policy and more instances of widespread racial violence.
"No, you can't paint me out as angry,” said Donald Williams II, an eyewitness to Floyd’s heinous killing, during a heated exchange with former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson. “I would say I was in a position where I had to be controlled. Controlled professionalism, I wasn't angry.”
A country isn’t defined by the invisible land borders on a map, but by its collective stories. For America, the so-called “city on a hill,” those stories seem to be coming up void in the case of justice, and it’s critically shaping a new generation at a defining time.
Data recently released by HIT Strategies, Washington, D.C.’s only Black and millennial-owned polling firm, designated racism, discrimination and injustice as top issues among young voters of all racial and age groups. Sadly, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and state capitals throughout the country have met these concerns and any push for real, preventative policy change with deaf ears, paralysis and inaction.
What makes this paralysis so damning is it comes amid a dual crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic that local, state and national leaders have been forced to meet with more swift action, and the centuries-long epidemic of racism.
For the past year, we have witnessed the right and wrong ways to manage national crises. For almost three months, the Biden administration effectively managed the COVID-19 pandemic by telling people the truth and working tirelessly to change the status quo and treat the underlying symptoms that created the crisis. As it relates to the other crisis, the racism epidemic scourging America, we have witnessed the opposite.
Whether it be the life of George Floyd or that of Eric Garner, America must acknowledge that its stories are incongruent with realities laid bare in cities across America. If we truly want to make this country fulfill its promise of liberty and justice for all, it will require us to admit that the story we tell ourselves about justice is a lie. It’s on all of us to write a story based on the truth.
Once we admit the truth, we can chart a course that gets it right. That new chapter should be driven by swift action to end racism and reform the broken system that we call American policing. If we do that, we can prevent another George Floyd. More importantly, we can ensure that every American gets the justice they deserve.
Justice in its true form ensures that police actually protect and serve, not harm. This should be a marked difference from the water-down, delayed and second-class process currently playing out in the Hennepin County Courthouse. What story will the Chauvin verdict tell? Young people are watching.