I am relieved.
After getting my hopes up so many times before that our nation’s justice system would do right by a Black person, only to be punched in the gut, I am relieved that the jurors in Minneapolis held Derek Chauvin accountable for murdering George Floyd. They believed what they saw: Chauvin callously kneeling on George’s neck for more than nine minutes as his breath and his life were drained from him. I am relieved that this is grounds for a murder conviction in our country.
As I watched news coverage of people crying, screaming, hugging and dancing, I experienced all those emotions. It was a release of anxiety, fear and the heavy burden Black people in America have carried throughout this trial – and it felt good.
I also am grateful.
For 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, who had the presence of mind to take out her phone and record what she witnessed on a Minneapolis street on the evening of May 25, 2020, because there may not have been a trial if she hadn’t. For Chauvin’s police chief and fellow officers who took the stand and said his show of force was unnecessary and in violation of department policy. And for the prosecutors, who skillfully countered racist stereotypes about the dangerous, drug-addicted Black man.
But I am clear-eyed.
This verdict does not bring back George Floyd, who should be alive today and who is lost to his kids and family for the rest of their lives. It does not deliver peace to countless other Black and Brown families who still seek accountability for the murder of a loved one. And it does not solve our country’s many problems rooted in systemic racism.
What I hope this verdict does do is move us closer to meaningful policy change and a more equitable and just future for all people. We have a long way to go, but this verdict can be a significant step in the right direction – if our country has the collective courage and will to make it one.
The Y is working toward a more equitable and just future in communities across the nation – and around the world – every day. Our commitment to becoming an anti-racist, multicultural organization calls us to stand against racism in all forms and lift up those who are oppressed. It also calls us to promote peace and understanding by bringing together people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives to help them find common ground, consistent with our inclusive mission. The Y is ready to help all people and communities go forward from this pivotal moment.
In a statement following George Floyd’s murder, I said I was sad, frustrated, angry and scared, but hopeful – primarily because the activism I saw across the country was led by young people of all races and ethnicities, locked arm-in-arm with their Black brothers and sisters. It warmed my heart to see them so visible in their communities again yesterday, because I believe they deserve credit for the verdict. The awareness they raised and the pressure they applied made a difference.
Most of the responsibility for reversing 400 years of racial inequity and injustice in this country will fall to young people. It’s a daunting task, but I know they are up to it. As I have said before, I am a firm believer in the power and promise of young people. Nothing is beyond their reach.
So, I remain hopeful. Because one verdict can be the start of something bigger, and because I’m convinced young people will make sure that it is.
President and CEO
YMCA of the USA
Wednesday, April 21, 2021