Chauvin’s Conviction Is a Good First Step Toward Racial Justice


On April 20, 2021, former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all charges for the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin’s conviction followed nearly one year of Black Lives Matter protests sparked by outrage over Floyd’s death and a highly publicized trial. The verdict led to celebrations nationwide. While George Floyd’s murder may have rekindled the Black Lives Matter movement last summer, his killer’s conviction does not mean the fight against police brutality is over.

Chauvin’s guilty verdict brought a sense of relief and surprise to many Americans. We’ve seen too many instances of white police officers killing Black civilians and walking away unscathed. Punishments are usually slaps on the wrist; officers are fired from the police force and stripped of their pensions. Those who stand trial are most often acquitted. While Chauvin’s sentence hasn’t been determined yet — his sentencing will be on June 25 — it’s noteworthy that he faces prison time at all.

In previous high-profile cases of police brutality, the officers involved faced no charges. Darren Wilson, the former police officer who shot Michael Brown in 2014, has been cleared of murder by three separate investigations, including one that took place last year. Daniel Pantaleo, the former officer who killed Eric Garner the same year, was fired by the New York Police Department; over six years later; he is still trying to get his job back. Two of the officers involved in the recent murder of Breonna Taylor were fired, but the third, John Mattingly, is still employed by the Louisville Metro Police Department.

Compared to the landslide of police officers that escaped justice before him, Chauvin being found guilty of murder is a giant step in the right direction. Yet, considering the tragic history of racial justice in America, the celebrations after Chauvin was found guilty seem bittersweet.

Why do we feel the need to celebrate when justice prevails? We should take justice for granted — it’s one of America’s founding tenets. Why don’t we expect murderers to be punished for their actions? We should, but we don’t. We know the truth about the American justice system, police brutality and systemic racism. We know that more often than not, white officers don’t face justice for killing Black people. And deep down, we know that Derek Chauvin’s conviction does not reverse these ugly truths.

It will take more than one trial to rectify the racist elements of the American justice system. Last Tuesday’s verdict was a victory for racial justice, but the battle is not over. As such, we cannot stop proclaiming that Black Lives Matter simply because one murderer is slated for a prison sentence. We can cheer, but we have to remember to continue the fight tomorrow when the celebrations are over.

During Chauvin’s trial, another police officer made headlines after fatally shooting Daunte Wright at a traffic stop. The officer in question, Kim Potter, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter, but if Wright’s murder slips out of the media cycle, there is no promise she will receive the same punishment that Chauvin did. It’s up to ordinary citizens like us to remember and to continue advocating for progress.

Racial justice in America has more facets than just police brutality. There are plenty of opportunities to advocate for Black lives and rights. Georgia recently passed a new voting law that specifically aims to suppress the Black vote — something we would be wrong to ignore. As we continue taking steps toward racial justice, we should do everything we can to further that march.