Since the announcement of the verdict in the trial of former Derek Chauvin, we hear and see relief from so many people in the United States and around the world.
As Minneapolis and major American cities braced for the worst, fearing the Los Angeles riots of 1992 would relive, there were instead demonstrations of joy. As President Biden pointed out in his remarks, this must be a first step towards ending systemic racism.
While I was very attentive to the President’s statement, I was very interested in what Vice President Kamala Harris said. The first woman and first person from minorities elected for this position, she stressed that despite the message sent by this conviction, she cannot make people forget the suffering or heal the wounds of too many generations of black Americans.
As many observers have expressed since last night, I can only hope for the start of a new era, but it has already been heralded so often in the history of the United States that my enthusiasm is quickly tempered by the memory of numerous reform failures and the lukewarmness of legislators, both at city level, at the level of states or politicians elected in Washington.
After following the trial daily from the start and listening to the closing arguments on Monday, I was convinced of Chauvin’s guilt. It seemed obvious to me that despite the efforts of the defense, the evidence was so overwhelming that he would be found to be minimally responsible for third degree murder.
Are we going to add a guilty verdict on the second degree murder charge? In this case, jurors had to be convinced of Chauvin’s intention, which is no small feat. When I heard the judge read the jury’s decision, I immediately thought of the 9-minute and 29-second video, replaying in my head a sentence from the prosecution: “You can believe your eyes”. believe what your eyes have seen.
As soon as I recalled the words of prosecutor Steve Schleicher, a question popped up in my mind: what if there hadn’t been this video? If the twelve jurors had not been able to see the defiant gaze of Chauvin in front of witnesses disgusted by the scene unfolding before their eyes? What if the jurors could not see the relaxed and nonchalant demeanor of the policeman maintaining his position even though Floyd no longer posed a threat?
The mere fact that the verdict caused such suspense when the facts were overwhelming demonstrates the frustration, anger and fatigue that the black community can feel. They have come to rejoice in the mere fact that justice has been served.
If I recognize that the conviction of Chauvin may give rise to hope for other changes and that I am delighted that many police officers have denounced the behavior of their former colleague, the weight of history prompts me to be cautious and to the reserve.
There is a great opportunity to be seized today, a rendezvous with history that should not be missed. Let us hope that we will not let the dust settle as we do too often in the case of killings and that we start now the colossal work required to reform the police services, but also to fight against inequalities. These are the crux of the matter.