Don’t Let Derek Chauvin’s Attorneys Gaslight You Into Thinking White Supremacy Didn’t Kill George Floyd
Black people: As the trial unfolds, hold tight to your self-care and sanity
Set a timer for eight minutes and 46 seconds and sit silently. Eight minutes and 46 seconds is an extraordinary amount of time — especially when your life is being slowly drained from you as was the horrific experience of George Floyd at the knee of ex-officer Derek Chauvin, who is currently on trial for second-degree murder, manslaughter, and now newly reinstated third-degree murder charges. May 31, 2020, will be a day we won’t soon forget when the video of Floyd’s last minutes of life were propelled around the globe in a viral video that, much like the open casket of Emmett Till, spurred an uprising. Once again, frame by frame, the video showcased the heinous nature of White supremacy and the cruelty of America’s criminal justice system.
There are so many aspects of that video that will forever haunt us. The desperation in the screams coming from Floyd begging for his life and then calling out for his deceased mother. The depravity exhibited by Chauvin in the ease he had with taking this Black man’s life. Unmoved by the glares, cameras, and outcries of the people watching a murder take place in real time, he stood with his hands in his pockets and sunglasses stationed on his head. But that is White supremacy, right? That is the ease with which it operates throughout this country and around the globe. We saw it in Chauvin’s face and the faces of the insurrectionists who stormed our Capitol and smeared feces on the halls of our democracy. Their faces uncovered — baring their entitlement and inhumanity for all to see.
The Chauvin trial isn’t just about the murder of George Floyd; it is about the lack of compassion and humanity shown toward Black people in this country and whether or not America will choose to ever see it. What’s most troublesome about the beginning of this trial is the trauma that will be reignited. Every time an innocent Black person is murdered, it is like all of us receive yet another slash to our hearts — death by a thousand cuts. We’re told not to protest, not to cry out, not to seek justice, and just wait as a system that was built to destroy us gets to decide if our lives actually matter. We hung on as we watched the George Zimmerman trial that spawned the Black Lives Matter movement and listened as the defense put deceased 16-year-old Trayvon Martin on trial rather than his predator.
In the eyes of the American injustice system — if Black men, women, and children are murdered by White vigilantes or White police officers, then folks automatically think we must have done something to cause it.
As we prepare to go through this trial where Chauvin’s attorneys will try to convince us that what we saw with our own eyes wasn’t indeed what happened but instead that it was Floyd who caused his own death via drug use — hold onto your self-care and sanity tightly.
What we know to be true is that if we are keen on the patterns of White violence in this country, we know they are never held accountable for the crimes committed against Black people. And yet we continue to persevere with an almost godly amount of grace through a world that wants to exterminate us by any means necessary. If Chauvin is held accountable for his crimes against Floyd, it won’t erase the centuries of violence we have experienced. It won’t absolve this nation from its despicable maltreatment of the people whose ancestors gave their lives in order to create this land of freedom. What we must remind ourselves of as we prepare to watch this trial unfold is that America doesn’t get to define our humanity. This injustice system doesn’t get to perpetuate falsehoods about our melanin being a threat. 2020 — the year of vision — opened our eyes to exactly who White America is and the privilege it exudes and the systems that need to be destroyed because of it.
As the late Audre Lorde once said, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” It is always darkest before the dawn, but the dawn always arrives.