Reality TV

Between Relaxed Shoulders and Raised Fists: After Derek Chauvin’s Conviction, What Comes Next?

“Guilty…. Guilty…. Guilty.” 

Now that the judge has read into the public record three counts of guilt in the case of Derek Chauvin, what are we to feel? What are we to think? What are we to do?

Some of us might feel relieved—eyes flooded and faces as wet as rivers as we reflect on the reality that justice has been more of a poetic, aspirational idea than a material fact, for the most part, when it comes to redressing the harm done to Black people in the U.S. 

Some of us may feel relieved because the verdict felt like something akin to justice. So, we cried. We rejoiced. We may have offered up thanks to God, Spirit, Ancestors. 

Some of us have depleted our deposit of tears. I wasn’t sure if I could shed any more. But I did. And I wasn’t sure if my face was wet from relief, or because as I watched in virtual community, some were finally able to breathe a long and collective sigh. Or because the loved ones of George Floyd might now be able to rest in their grief. Or because I imagined them holding one another closely, healing outside the purview of a camera, sleeping well knowing that the person who ended the life of their beloved won’t slip out of the confines of a cage like so many other police officers before him (though how can one rest knowing that a guilty charge will never bring back their loved one?). Or perhaps my tears flowed because my sister admitted in our family group chat that she was crying as she watched. And as she watched and cried, I thought about the faith she must summon every time her 16-year-old son, Semaj, leaves the house fully enraptured in his Black youthfulness, only to be read as a threat by some.

I don’t know why I cried while watching an officer of the court cuff a former law enforcement officer who killed a Black person, but I know how I felt: like a driver in a vehicle that has been stuck in a traffic jam for so long who, after having waited with impatient patience, finally begins to move ahead with a deep awareness that further along they might come upon traffic yet again. I imagine that is how some of us felt. And I also know that the Black experience in the U.S. has been a vexing and enduring gridlock under the conditions of anti-Black racism and state-perpetrated violence. 

So I understood why some folks felt angry still. And rightfully so, because they might recognize that there exists a form of material justice that we have yet to fully imagine and experience. After all, the practices we employ and the tactics that we use are the consequence of the limitations of our moral and spiritual imaginations, shaped in a country where justice looks like punishment, like cages, like cuffs, like policing the police after the police kills one of us, like more violence as a response to violence. 

This is why I am suspended between joy and lament, relaxed shoulders and raised fists: because there appear to be few options outside of other possibilities—the greatest of which is George Floyd still being alive. It seems, so acutely, that the only option at our disposal relies on a system that itself needs to be razed. These are complicated thoughts and feelings. 

I am buoyed, though, by visions of a just future that we can collectively imagine and build: a time ahead when we no longer seek to end harm by committing harm because that is all that we know to do. And what better time than now? 

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