Guilty. Culpable of or responsible for a specified wrongdoing. A word not often used to describe when a police officer kills a Black person. A word millions of people all over the world have been waiting to hear for almost a year.
Yesterday afternoon, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd. He was charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
While the Black community is releasing a collective sigh of relief, this still does not feel like justice. If there was justice, Floyd would still be alive today. The country would not have been anxiously awaiting the verdict of a graphic murder caught on camera — a murder that changed a nation forever.
Chauvin is being held accountable for his actions, but Floyd cannot be brought back to life.
I published a column for the Indiana Daily Student on May 13, 2020, titled “Black men should not be forced to be martyrs.” I was completely unaware of what was about to take place less than two weeks later. In the column, I mentioned a quote from poet Jasmine Manns: “My son will not be a martyr for a war he never asked for.”
George Floyd likely unwillingly became a martyr on May 25, 2020.
The devastating murder of George Floyd changed the course of my life. It brought me closer to my calling and proved to me even more of what I care about. But at what cost?
The protests, petitions and donations were positive developments. Peoples’ eyes were opened to the deeply embedded racism in society. I am not sure how it took so long. While the world needed this rude awakening, I struggle to believe it was worth it, because someone had to die.
Floyd was murdered five days before my 21st birthday. As I watched the minutes get closer to midnight on the night of May 29, I cried. I felt guilty for celebrating anything. I spent that day at a protest in downtown Indianapolis.
I dedicated my senior year to making sure his death was not in vain. I hope I did him justice.
After ten months of anticipation, the verdict finally came yesterday.
I was scrolling through my social media feed when I saw a post saying the verdict would be released within the hour. I immediately got a sick feeling in my stomach. My heart started racing and my hands were sweating. A rush of anxiety washed over my body — almost a year of anticipation led to this moment.
When I read the verdict would be out soon, I thought back to that humid summer day in July 2013 when George Zimmerman was found not guilty for the murder of Trayvon Martin. That day I was only 13. I did not understand too much about the world. But I knew I was angry.
During the hour awaiting the Chauvin verdict I thought about a lot.
I thought about George Floyd, his life, his family and his friends. I thought about my family and friends who look like Floyd and my future son who could as well. At times the world we live in makes me fear bringing a precious Black child into the world. It all feels so unfair.
I thought about Floyd calling for his mother. I thought about crying for my own mother as a child and how I would still cry for her now as an adult.
It was announced that the verdict would be in between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Once the clock hit 4:30, I felt a rush of panic. The thirty minutes felt like an hour. I paced the same small path in my bedroom, then the judge appeared on the live YouTube stream I was watching.
The pacing became stillness, my eyes glued to the small computer scream.
As I was waiting for the judge to announce the verdict, I kept repeating “Please God.”
Guilty. On all three counts.
I felt instant relief. My heart beat slowed down and the sweat on my hands dissipated. The “Please God” became “Thank you God.”
I had a class that started at 5 p.m., and the lesson was policing in America. I joined 15 minutes late because I was watching the news for the verdict.
“I am glad you were able to come,” my professor privately messaged me. “We just heard the verdict!!”
I messaged back that I was relieved, and she responded with “Yes!!”
While I struggle to feel excited, I feel hopeful. I am thankful. But still — none of this seems worth it.