Dear GSS Community:
Today the world knows that George Floyd’s life mattered. Late yesterday, the jury deliberating at the trial of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin handed down a verdict of guilty on all three counts: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The loss and suffering inflicted upon the Floyd family will not be diminished by this conviction. The fear and violence inflicted on generations of Black families will not be erased. But hopefully, the Floyd family can take some comfort in the accountability that this conviction brings, a rarity for Black communities.
Justice is defined as 1) fairness 2) moral rightness, and 3) a system of law in which every person receives his/her/their due from the system, including all rights, both natural and legal. While the world watched, Derek Chauvin and three other police officers brutally murdered Mr. Floyd, robbing him of the moral and legal justice he deserved. Since last May, 181 additional Black people have been killed by police.
In just the past few weeks, Daunte Wright, age 20; Adam Toledo, age 13; and yesterday Ma’Khia Bryant, age 16; were gunned down by law enforcement officers. It’s time that the speculation and debates regarding systemic racism stop and be replaced by genuine systemic change in policing and criminal justice. As social workers, we have a critical role to play, and we must ensure that the accountability imposed yesterday in Minneapolis is extended and realized in every community across the country. True justice cannot be celebrated until this is the norm rather than the exception.
As we recommit ourselves, perhaps we can all draw some measure of strength from yesterday’s conviction as confirmation of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s belief that the arch of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
Debra M. McPhee, Ph.D.
Graduate School of Social Service