Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
A Minnesota jury found former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of all three charges in the murder of George Floyd. Second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Justice has been served.
But this justice is laced with bitterness. A bitterness Black Americans first taste on their tongue when a little white kid on the playground tells them their skin looks weird. The harsh taste seeps into our skin when all eyes look our way as the sixth-grade history teacher goes over the slavery unit. Then the first time a police officer spews their chilling blue gaze in our direction, the freedom we achieved less than 200 years ago melts off our faces. To live as a Black American is hearing the ringing reminder that everyone else sees you as a shadow of a human. A walking target. A shell of a person.
On May 25, 2020, that is precisely what Mr. Chauvin saw George Floyd as. A disposable human being.
To get to this day: April 20, 2021, where a white police officer was finally held accountable for his actions, too many other people had to die.
Black parents have to tell their kids, don't go to the convenience store for skittles (Trayvon Martin). Don't jog (Ahmaud Arbery). Don't play in the park (Tamir Rice). Don't listen to the radio (Jordan Davis). Don't dance (Elijah McClain). Don't play video games (Atatiana Jefferson). Don't have an air freshener in the rearview mirror (Daunte Wright). Don't sleep (Breonna Taylor). Don't breathe (George Floyd).
America doesn't want us to live.
After the judge announced the verdict, the news panned to civilians outside of Cup Foods — the last store Mr. Floyd would ever enter. A Black man in what looked like a Black Lives Matter T-shirt heaved tears of joy. Chest turned to the sky, his cries reverberated through the air and into my heart. As tears of my own flowed down my face, I felt a jolt. The ancestors. At this moment, I was reminded of the collective struggle every single chain of my African family tree had to overcome for me to get to this moment. Mr. Floyd had a family. Brown bodies clouded up his family tree. It isn't only unfair or unjust that Mr. Floyd's tree of life stopped at 46 years of living. It is horrendous.
Mr. Chauvin will hopefully serve up to 40 years in jail, but this case is so much more than him. It is more than Minneapolis, America, and it is more than the whole world. As my mom said, there aren't a few rotten apples in the police department. There are rotten trees. Billie Holiday sang in 1954, "Southern trees bear a strange fruit/ Blood on the leaves and blood at the root/ Black bodies swingin' in the Southern breeze/ Strange fruit hangin' from the poplar trees." Until we fix the rotten trees in white America, I fear what Ms. Holiday sang will never end. Black people might not get lynched anymore, but our bodies are even more vulnerable. Instead of trees and nooses, cellphones and videos capture the vulnerability of Black bodies in America. Knees on the neck, skin on skin, gun to heart.
I think about the 17-year old girl who recorded the now infamous video of Mr. Chauvin holding his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck for nine minutes. How she wakes up at night in terror, asking herself, "Could I have done more?" I look back on the friendly neighborhood gentleman who was one of the first people to the scene when police arrested Mr. Floyd. The chills which run throughout his body when he realizes he was one of the last voices Mr. Floyd ever heard. Then George Floyd's family. His daughter who is the same age as my little sister, and will never see her daddy again.
In his last moments of life, George Floyd yelled out for his mother. "Mama, mama, mama," he yells, fighting for breath. His mother, known as "Miss Cissy," died two years prior. But even then, Mr. Floyd knew the only help he could get was from the earth above.
Today I hope Mr. Floyd and his mother are both smiling down as his murder alas goes to jail.
My grandfather, Baba, often says, "We come from greatness and we are greatness." Being Black in America is difficult, but today I am reminded that the flowers which go through the most end up blooming into the brightest. The world can never dimmer the shine of Black people.