Three weeks ago, like countless others throughout the nation, I tuned into the Derek Chauvin trial. After watching George Floyd die from multiple angles, it didn’t take long to access the intractable loss that no outcome could overcome.
Shortly after calling the first witness, it also became evident that George Floyd was the one on trial. I guess what I mean here is that the trial proved a public and legalized debate about whether George Floyd’s death constituted murder. What’s perhaps most sinister is that the critical inquiry at hand was the question as to whether George Floyd could in fact, be murdered at all.
The verdict overtly says, “yes…but unintentionally,” depicting the power of this government to hold one of its own to a campfire while the flames of white supremacy continue to burn. The verdict and its predictable celebration elucidate yet another attempt to lead blacks into the burning house of American injustice.
The trial and verdict work to ameliorate the conspicuous cup that runneth over, to come in at the twenty-third hour, and attempt to reignite faith in a failed system—nevertheless, both the trial and verdict harbor imperative lessons for the African-descended.
A Fair Trial
The judge’s dedication to ensuring that Derek Chauvin received a “fair” trial illustrates that though the entire world watched Chauvin kill Floyd multiple times from multiple angles—it remains debatable whether Chauvin murdered Floyd. I couldn’t help but think of the soldiers of white supremacy who saw fit to feed murderer Dylan Roof after he killed nine people. Collaboratively, both instances remind the world that even when performing dehumanizing acts, whites are to be treated with more humanity than some black people ever experience outside of their homes.
A Race Traitor
I also found the overt contempt cast onto EMT, Genevieve Hansen as quite telling. If you recall, Hansen was off duty when she demanded the officers check Floyd’s pulse and demanded the soldiers of white supremacy to demonstrate a professionalism they arrogantly abandoned. She faced castigation because she was going against the unspoken code to practice and support anti-blackness. While I would not go as far as to say that Hansen is pro-black, I would say that her demand that police treat George Floyd as a human posited what the court felt was up for debate: whether Floyd’s life was valuable enough to consider his death a murder.
A Small Heart?, or no Heart at All
“The reason George Floyd is dead is because Derek Chauvin’s heart was too small.”
Here, the prosecution rendered a resonant rebuttal to the defense’s notion that George Floyd’s heart was “too big.” Though a formidable follow-up to the defense’s debauchery, the prosecution remained espoused to its pro-police ideology. The issue wasn’t that Chauvin’s heart is/was “too small,” the point is that the heart of domestic terrorism is white supremacy, an ideology that informed both the defense and the prosecution.
The Fox and the Wolf: The Prosecution and the Defense
There are a plethora of reasons why this trial proved troubling. One of the most painful was that neither side was “anti-police.” The defense depicted Floyd as a “super-negro” who warranted deadly force to “contain” him. The prosecution presented Floyd as a drug addict that warranted arrest and force, but not death.
Floyd’s recreational relationship with substances had no place in the courtroom. Nicole Brown Simpson’s substance use was not a part of her murder trial, and Floyd should have received the same respect. Its place in the court underscores a pro-police ideology where even the deceased, black victim of police abuse must appear in memory as he does under the police’s gaze.
Thus, much like the democratic and republican parties, the prosecution and defense in the Derek Chauvin trial both proved advocates for white nationalism, albeit employing varying methodologies.
The message here for the African-descended is as follows: just because two or more things look different does not mean that they are.
“This is not an anti-police prosecution; it is a pro-police prosecution.”
Additionally, a pro-police verdict does not outlaw police murder. Rather, it casts Chauvin as an anomaly–an aberration to endure a minor sacrifice for the greater good of a corrupt system. In the same breath, Chauvin as an aberration suggests that the unpunished instances of police brutality that inundate black present and past are justified, and this verdict will be the point of reference for every racist and apologist moving forward. Their point being, when it’s awful, the law steps up. (It does not. It has never done anything of the sort.)
Arresting the African in America
Both the prosecution and defense support the behavior that preceded Floyd’s murder. Though one witness stated that they (the police) “could have tried to talk to Floyd” it proved quite telling that confrontation, not counsel, is institutional protocol. We, as black people, live in a world where the courtesy of counsel is optional.
The police should have never arrested Floyd. This scenario could have easily been resolved had they shown Floyd any respect. Instead, the police encountered Floyd confrontationally. Ninety-nine percent of crimes against black people result from an encounter soured at the start. Police sign up to use their weapons; they sign up for the rush of killing a black person. Therefore, Black arrest is foreplay to a sadist in blue inform.
Upon hearing the word accountability tossed around recklessly after the verdict, it became evident that white nationalism steers the narrative. Additionally, it became apparent that many received the ruling as the final word and ignored all the “words” that came before it. There is NO accountability in a country that deems respecting black people optional. The verdict was the bare minimum, as is talking to someone about something that they were likely oblivious to.
Talking to someone about a situation, though, requires considering them human…
The Universal Affect
This brings me to my next point. The only thing that separates George Floyd from Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and Sandra Bland was that Floyd became a universal symbol of injustice. Thus, it is only when a black man becomes a national symbol that the system decides to issue the black community crumbs of “justice” that would be deemed unfit to anyone of the majority.
Therefore, what the world witnessed on the second to last Tuesday in April 2021, is not justice. It is a portrait of America seeking to salvage its mythos without having to divorce white supremacy.
Make no mistake. Despite what Jim Crow Joe said, what happened to George Floyd could not have happened to anyone. Black injustice remains a staple not only of the black experience but of American character. Floyd may have become a national symbol for America’s pseudo attempt of redemption, but even the fact that he must become a universal symbol to “matter”(or be considered fractionally human) elucidates a persistent lack of empathy.
The Right to Kill
Something that also stood out to me during the trial was the emphasis on a police officer’s right to kill. The trial and testimony portrayed a police officer as a unique societal entity subject to an evaluation autonomous from the average human. Because the police are an integral component to national anti-blackness, their job is to protect and serve white nationalism.
The police, by default, develop an anti-black arrogance that equips them with the legalized perception that they can do as they please, and blacks bear the consequence of this perception.
As long as the police exist, black people, as a collective, will never be safe. Perhaps more significantly, the soldiers of white supremacy remain integral to the continuous dehumanization of black people. As long as they exist to enforce the lie of law, black humanity remains questionable.
Donald Williams, A Star Witness
Much of the media coverage following the trial underscores Darnella Frazier, who provided the courts with what she had to compromise her mental peace to attain (incriminating video footage). Frazier subverted the white gaze with what she captured on a camera phone, and alongside prosecution witness Donald Williams, details a resonant portrait of our power as a people.
In my assessment, Donald Williams was the trial’s star witness. Donald Williams demonstrated strength without apology that elucidates the unrest the rendered verdict exists to pacify. He is who the police and the courts seek to eternally silence and systemically castrate, so the true victory was his testimony and the rare portrait of courage he conveyed.
Collaboratively, he and Miss Frazier, embody what George Floyd’s legacy must become.
Sandra Bland, Sister Case
Throughout this case, there were several elephants in the room, the most prevalent being the footage that displayed a haughty Chauvin murdering Floyd. The truth is, we all know that there was only a “murder” because of bystander intrusion and a young girl archiving what would have been covered up by labels such as “suicide” (as seen with Sandra Bland and countless others) or “drug overdose.” Thus, the defense implemented what inevitability follows death in police custody: fiction and erroneous information that becomes factual in the absence of unadulterated footage.
Thus, the case harbors an imperative message for both sides.
For the African in America, the message is that our death is only murder if witnessed by multiple people and archived on video.
The message for the soldiers of white supremacy is to wait until they are on police territory to murder.
Shortly after the verdict, a photograph of George Floyd’s young daughter surfaced with the young girl on her father’s shoulders with the caption “Daddy changed the world.” While this photo presents an ideal reality, this verdict only signals a change in the ways of white supremacy, not it’s abolition.
Presently, I sit here with a hole in my heart from the many people who consider yesterday’s verdict a “step in the right direction” articulated through the phrase “ you gotta start somewhere.”
After four-hundred years of oppession, it is insane to hear anyone talking about “starting somewhere.” If we as a people continue to settle for crumbs and bones, not only do we consent to pervasive ideologies that regard black humanity as a question of the courts, we accept base treatment as a sign of advancement.
The late Dr. John Henry Clarke once said, “If you start your history with slavery, everything else seems like progress.” Similarly, suppose we “start” our plight toward systemic justice with the legal proclamation that police are “unintentional” murders. In that case, as we saw last night with the murder of fifteen-year-old Makiyah Bryant, we will continue to be murdered as they continue to manifest their destiny in our corpses and write their history in our blood.
and countless others who did and did not make the news.
Rest in the power we are still struggling to behold on earth.