I remember the Rodney King verdict like it was yesterday. And when the LAPD officers were on trial, I was not prepared for disappointment that came with that verdict. Thirty years later, after spending the last few weeks preparing myself for what could be another disappointment, today’s decision feels like progress.
Today, a jury in Minneapolis delivered three guilty verdicts in the murder of George Floyd and a strong message that police are not above the law. This is just one case in one killing of a person of color by police, but we hold hope that it will be a turning point toward a better future where public safety protects all people, no matter the color of their skin.
For the past three weeks, we have watched witnesses, lawyers, medical experts, and police officers describe the painstaking details of George Floyd’s last hours, and the way in which he was murdered at dusk in front of a crowd of community members. And while it was an individual police officer, Derek Chauvin, on trial in a Minneapolis court, this moment is also a public examination of our entire nation. Police officers kill Black people at rates three times higher than they kill white people, and that disparity is even higher in some cities and regions. Our public safety systems have been selective in who they protect (and who they fail to protect), and for too many of us, they have made life more dangerous.
We must reimagine our approach to public safety and other systems that should serve all of us, so that George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, Breonna Taylor, and far too many others, are seen in their full humanity and for the contributions and joy they bring to this world.
“I want to touch the world,” George Floyd told his high school friend at the age of 17. “Big Floyd” — a star athlete known for making people laugh — was the first in his family to go to college. He deserved a country that prioritized his safety and wellbeing – and the safety and wellbeing of all its people – above punishment and fear. He deserved to sit in his car without having a gun pointed at him by a public servant whose sworn duty is to uphold the peace. He deserved so much more than being murdered by a police officer.
While we can’t give George Floyd the life and the future that he deserved, we can work to create a better future for Black community members and all people of color. We can create a new vision of what public safety means in our cities and on our streets. We can respond to community needs with empathy and support instead of violence and fear. We can build a future that is genuinely and intentionally safer for all of us.
Today, one police officer was found guilty of brazen murder. It remains painfully clear how much work lies ahead. Each and every one of us has a role to play. Here’s a start:
- Take care of yourself in whatever way you need to right now
- Use your civic voice to demand change and a new vision of public safety
- Attend public hearings about your local police department and advocate for approaches that center community
- Educate yourself and others:
- Read Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram Kendi
- Watch the documentaries 13th, and When They See Us, both by Ava Duvernay
- Donate to the following organizations:
- The Anti Police-Terror Project (fiscally sponsored by Affect Real Change, based in Oakland)
- BlackOUT Collective (fiscally sponsored by The Ruckus Society, national)
- The Center for Policing Equity (national)
- Critical Resistance (Oakland)
- Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
- Movement for Black Lives (fiscally sponsored by Common Counsel Foundation, national)
- Safe Return Project (fiscally sponsored by Social Good Fund, based in Contra Costa County)