Black people still can’t breathe

Does the verdict of the Derek Chauvin trial really mean that justice was served?

Rosa Gómez

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Protestors outside of the Minnesota State Capitol calling for justice, following the murder of George Floyd.

This summer, the nation grieved the murder of George Floyd at the hands –– or rather the knee –– of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. 

Chauvin, captured on video, knelt on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes while bystanders witnessed Floyd’s life taken in front of them 

Floyd’s death marked yet another Black life stolen by the police. 

Floyd’s final words, “I can’t breathe,” have echoed far beyond Minneapolis. 

It broke the hearts of white people throughout the country, and Black people felt the familiar pain, anguish and exhaustion of being subjected to watch another one of their brothers killed.  

This murder sparked an international uproar that will forever change how this nation views police brutality against Black people.

Even wider, people felt compelled to begin their allyship journey and learn to recognize how their own anti-Black tendencies and biases contribute to the racism that plagues society and wider institutional racism. 

Over the summer, we saw people taking to the streets to call for justice for George Floyd. This brings up the question: What does justice even mean and has it been achieved?

The jury for this trial unanimously ruled to convict Derek Chauvin of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

While it is so important for people to face consequences for their actions, and I am incredibly relieved by the verdict, justice goes beyond reactionary measures. 

If there was justice, George Floyd would still be alive. 

Breonna Taylor would still be alive. 

Philando Castile would still be alive. 

Michael Brown would still be alive.

Daunte Wright would still be alive. 

Rayshard Brooks would still be alive. 

Anton Black would still be alive.

Elijah McClain would still be alive. 

Sandra Bland would still be alive. 

Freddie Gray would still be alive. 

Tamir Rice would still be alive. 

Eric Garner would still be alive. 

The thousands of other unjustly killed Black people in the United States would not have had their future stripped away from them, if there was justice. 

Justice runs deeper than any one verdict. Justice is proactive. Justice is committing yourself to radical change. 

Justice is listening to the Black and Brown communities that have been fighting for liberation.

Justice is realizing when reform is not enough and abolishing all the forms in which white supremacy manifests itself in our society. 

This trial does not erase this nation’s gross lack of action. Do not let this be an excuse to stop fighting for racial justice.

I implore all of us, who stand in a position of privilege, to be on the right side of history. But not for the sake of recognition, performative measures or the limelight of being considered an activist.

Do it for the sake of humanity. 

It is our responsibility to work to reshape the systems which have allowed such atrocities to continuously occur. It is our job to fix the corrupt justice system that perpetuates a cycle that allows white oppressors to take lives again and again. 

Work to make intersectionality at the forefront of this nation’s legacy. 

Keep learning, growing and advocating for better. Use what you learn and let it motivate you to create change moving forward.

Justice will be achieved when Black people can breathe. 

Black lives matter. 

Gómez can be reached at [email protected].