As we write this on Tuesday, April 20, we are filled with many emotions — and even an emptiness. We have a feeling of relief that there was a just verdict in the State of Minnesota’s case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. A jury convicted Chauvin of three counts — second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — after Chauvin, a White man, kneeled on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, more than nine minutes last May.
We also must accept the sober reality that because of the systemic issues that exist, we could have another George Floyd incident tomorrow. Today.
In the words of the Minnesota Attorney General, Keith Ellison, “Why did teenagers, off-duty fire fighters and others stop on that street that day? Not because they new anything about George Floyd, other than the fact that George Floyd was a human being. And, that what was happening to him was wrong.”
We face the daunting reality in knowing that if there had not been a cloud of witnesses to the murder of George Floyd, and the undeniable video coverage, the outcome would be different. And yet we also know that it was the goodness of ordinary people who did not look the other way when they saw this murder take place that made all the difference.
It was the vast, angry, exhausting, tireless outpouring of human protest — sustained for months on end, involving, quite literally, millions of people and reaching into every corner of the country — that managed to create the conditions in which a single police officer caught on tape murdering another person could be held accountable for doing so. It was these same ordinary people who were willing to testify at trial on a world stage. And, the conscience of the ordinary people in that jury box that led them to a just verdict.
The verdict following this sustained ground swell of the human spirit confronting a seemingly ossified system of racial injustice gives us a stone of hope. As do the lives and wisdom of those who have gone before us. Tonight, as we are left to accept the fullness of our reality, we remember the prophetic words of the abolitionist minister, Rev. Theodore Parker when he preached in 1853, “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”
Today, we all felt that arc bending.