Yesterday, I, like the rest of the digitally and broadcast connected world, watched and waited for the Derrick Chauvin verdict– a verdict vigil. That, after nearly a year of waiting for the trial to take place. We listened to just shy of two weeks of testimony. We heard 11 days of the prosecution’s 38 witnesses, much of it, heart wrenching and highly emotional, much of it, highly technical, scientific and procedural. We heard a mere 2 days of the defense counsel’s 7 witnesses, much of it aggravating, much of it boring. Surprisingly, it took the members of the jury, 6 white (2 men, 4 women), 4 black (3 men, 1 woman), and 2 multi-racial (both women), only 10 hours to reach a unanimous verdict. And we waited for the reading of the 3-part decision.
Waiting is something Black folks are very familiar with. If you were raised in the church, as I was, you learned the meaning of tarrying at an early age. You may not have had a full appreciation of the Biblical context, but you knew it meant to wait. You knew about waiting on the Lord. “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
As we grew older, we heard phrases like, good things come to those who wait and fools rush in where angels fear to tread– both meaning, slow down and wait. We’re accustomed to waiting for anything of value and importance, but we were told that yesterday’s decision was a potential game changer. They said a guilty verdict would be pivotal as it was a likely catalyst for change– not just in Minnesota, but across the U.S. and throughout the world, a world which had been watching murder after murder of unarmed black men in America go unpunished. Black folks have been waiting on justice since long before Civil Rights was a movement, so as I waited, I couldn’t help but anxiously wonder, and nervously speculate about tomorrow.
Would tomorrow usher in the end of the white superiority ethos in law enforcement communities? Would tomorrow call for the end of a history of highly charged police aggression towards black men? Would tomorrow bring in the ringing of the church bells for the death of America’s systemic racism? Will tomorrow sound a trumpet blast, a clarion call for all to hear, across America’s urban centers and small towns, signifying that from this day forward, a zero-tolerance justice system will not allow a city cop, or a sheriff’s deputy to operate as judge, jury and executioner?
Wounded, scarred, and battle weary, yesterday, I was reluctant to celebrate the promise of freedom. No high fives, no fist bumps, and as much as I would have loved to dance in the streets and fill the night air with fireworks, I was still numb from previous acquittals, and frankly, stunned by a verdict I never thought we would hear. What would I have been celebrating? We’re down 50 points in the 4th quarter and we score a goal? Would I have been celebrating a single victorious battle in a long-standing war, a war for equality that has left my people in a constant and dismal state of PTSD? Would tomorrow’s dawn bring with it a future where I feel safe and equal as I go about my days and go about my ways amongst white people, predisposed to viewing me as a threat– as dangerous?
Well, today is tomorrow, and I don’t feel the difference. I don’t feel any more hopeful or optimistic. In fact, I’m waiting for the backlash from folks whose reaction to the verdict was outrage and indignance. Those who sought to try George for his own murder and are now seeking justice for Derrick. They are some of the same folks who cheered for George Zimmerman’s acquittal. I would be naïve to believe the January 6th insurrectionists are taking this loss lying down. The money is flowing into the coffers of former President Trump and his minions throughout the Republican party. Their armies of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers remain ready, still standing by, waiting for their next call to action. I’m confident that the events of yesterday, with all of our celebrations and collective tears of joy, will only serve to bolster and motivate the cause of the hateful. I can only wait and wonder what tomorrow will bring. Perhaps tomorrow will bring significant policing reform ending Choke Holds, No Knock Warrants and Qualified Immunity, to begin, but I’m not hopeful, nor am I optimistic. I hope I’m proven wrong. I’ll have to wait and see.
That’s what’s on my mind!