George Floyd’s life mattered.
He should still be alive. Our hearts are still with him and his loved ones. We acknowledge the pain they have endured for the past year and especially during the past three weeks of this trial. Though we applaud and recognize the conviction of Derek Chauvin as necessary, we also know it is insufficient. The guilty verdict does not bring George Floyd back, nor does it make the U.S. criminal justice system any more just. And the fight must continue! In a few months, Chauvin will be sentenced and this sentencing must reflect the severity of his crimes.
To be clear, Derek Chauvin’s conviction is an anomaly. Most police officers and vigilantes who take the lives of Black and Brown people are not even charged, let alone convicted. Even with charges and convictions, police murders continue. Since testimony in the Chauvin Trial began on March 29, at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, with Black and Brown people representing more than half of the dead.
In the wake of continuous killings of Black and Brown people (including Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo), Colorlines and Race Forward calls for greater urgency in reimagining public safety in a way that values, safeguards, and invests in the lives of people of color – Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander. As we call for the convictions of police officers who brutalize our communities, we also call for collective action to dismantle structural racism.
Structural racism has created and perpetuated a system of policing in this country where neighborhoods of color are more likely to have militarized police presence than well-resourced schools, quality housing, healthcare and affordable food, and well-paying jobs. In these segregated conditions, police department policies and police officer practices result in the brazen murders of Black and Brown people for offenses as minor as a suspected counterfeit $20 bill or an outdated vehicle registration during a pandemic.
Black, Indigenous, and other people of color have the same right as white people to live safe and healthy lives, without fear for their life in the midst of everyday activities—driving, going to the store, walking down the street wearing a hoodie in the rain, and even sleeping in their own bed. Even complying with police orders does not eliminate the possibility of being shot or killed by police.
We must end this cycle of death by police.
In the short-term, that means holding police officers and departments accountable for their actions. Again, this is necessary, but not sufficient. Only when we abolish oppressive systems and invest in the health and dignity of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian-American Pacific Islander communities will we have completed our task. Only then can we create a truly safe society in which all of us can thrive with dignity, power, and purpose.