3 verdicts spur us on

/ 22 April 2021

Tuesday the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial returned with three guilty verdicts. The waiting that started at 3:30 pm that day drew me into hushed silence. The report was that the verdicts would be shared in court betweern 3:30 and 4:00 pm, but by 4:00 pm they still hadn’t been read.

I sat and sat and sat and prayed. And when the judge finally appeared and read the verdicts, and on all three counts Chauvin was found guilty, I burst into tears.

This is only a beginning step. But it is a step I did not dare to believe was possible. I watched as much of the trial as I could — hours and hours of it — and learned far more than I suppose I want to, about legal use of police force, about what police training consists in, and so on.

Our system of law enforcement is so broken. Even as we awaited the verdicts here in Minnesota, a young teenager, a Black girl, was shot dead in Columbus, Ohio by police who were responding to HER call for help. And today as I write this post, we are facing the funeral of Daunte Wright, yet another young Black man killed by a white police officer just outside of Minneapolis. He was stopped for a small traffic violation — license tag? something hanging from his rearview mirror? it’s not entirely clear.

That a traffic stop results in death. That the possibility that someone used a $20 counterfeit bill results in death on the street by a cop kneeling on your neck as you plead for air. These incidents break my heart into tiny little shards.

I am having a hard time doing what Parker Palmer urges — letting my heart be broken open, ever wider, instead.

These are incidents where police are functioning as judge, jury, and executioner — it’s impossible to see how they differ from lynching. And yet our city, our nation, continue to support the police. Even the Derek Chauvin trial, as startling as it was that he was convicted on all counts, was basically a defense of the police more generally and just a condemnation of “one bad cop.”

My prayer this morning is that we begin to wake up from the lethargy, the apathy, even the despair that has held so many — particularly white folx — from collectively organizing to change our systems. I am learning how to be part of a restorative justice circle, and I am reading Kazu Haga’s work on “Healing Resistance.” These are my steps this week. May they be strong first steps on a journey towards true justice.