The Chauvin trial has come to a close, and with its end, a small weight has been lifted. There were tears, there was celebration, and there was relief that 12 jurors were willing to declare that George Floyd’s life mattered.
Some might say the verdict provided justice. But as Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s attorney general, said, “the definition of justice is to provide restoration,” and there will be no restoration for the family and friends of George Floyd. Rather this verdict provided accountability for the actions of Derek Chauvin.
Recently, there have been comparisons made between how America reacted to the killings of Emmett Till back in 1955 and George Floyd last year. Emmett’s mother didn’t have the benefit of a video to force America to confront its racism and the little value it placed on Black lives. It is why she insisted on an open casket so that people would have to see what “they” did to her son. Emmett’s mother hoped that when people saw her son’s body, they would not be able to unsee what they saw. We did see what Officer Chauvin did to George. We saw his knee on George’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds as bystanders pleaded for him to stop. We hope that after seeing George’s murder, we won’t be able just to move on. And we hope it doesn’t stop here with the guilty verdict. There are too many families mourning the loss of lives of their loved ones because our systems have failed them.
George Floyd’s death uniquely shone a light on the policies and institutionalized practices that deny people of color equity of opportunity. While legal discrimination in everything from housing to education was made illegal long ago, we know that in practice, it still exists, and we live in a society where the widening health, wealth and opportunity gaps are the remnants we live with every day. Our city, our region, our nation are at a pivotal moment where we need to do better. Not just for the communities of color that understandably feel that they are living with targets on their backs, but for society as a whole. Because we cannot be a great city, region, or nation if our fellow neighbors are struggling to maintain life’s essentials like food, housing, jobs, and even breathe.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become the buzzwords of 2021, and our institutions and corporations have raised their consciousness. However, if we are to provide genuine justice and actual restoration, our society needs to fundamentally examine our humanity and the inhumane and unjust systems that intentionally or unintentionally perpetuate inequity. As leading civic organizations, we can and will use our voices alongside community partners and leaders to advocate for the systems change and the municipal and corporate investments needed to provide restoration for decades of injustice.
Sean Garrett Helene D. Gayle
President and CEO President and CEO
United Way of Metro Chicago The Chicago Community Trust