“After the Verdict”
On Tuesday afternoon, almost 11 months after the death of George Floyd, Derrick Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer, was found guilty of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter. The 9 minutes and 29 seconds video has been indelibly etched into our collective memory, and the smirking face of smug police snuffing out the life of the man below his knee has now become the poster of police brutality.
“What now?” Besides one more person in prison, will this change anything out in the streets? Will this stop people from dying at the hands of the police? Will this verdict stop racism?
This verdict was nothing more than a pebble thrown into the Niagara Falls of injustice. Yes, we did something, but a pebble will not change the course of the torrent.
Does it mean we stop throwing in pebbles? No, it means we must do more. We must continue to weed out “bad actors” in the police, but we must also curb the power given to police.
Power must be used only for one purpose – to serve those who are powerless. For the police, the power to carry a weapon that can kill is for the privilege of protecting the innocent. Privileges also come with responsibility and accountability. Those with power must be held to account for their use or misuse of power.
Until we grasp the incredible privilege of serving one another, we will never be a nation that values human life. Current statistics would indicate that we do not know this as the U.S. is the most dangerous place in the world and the most murderous nation in the world.
Prophet Micah tells us what we need to do, “God has shown you what is good, and what does your God require of you? To do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly.” (Micah 6:8)
The fundamental problem is that power blinds and dehumanizes those in the position of power. Power enslaves those in the position of power, and the people in the position of power lose their humanity. Unless those in power are accountable, they will only see their role and will cease to experience their humanity. Derek Chauvin only knew himself as a gun-wielding authorized vigilante and lost his humanity. He did not recognize his communal connection to George Floyd. Because he lost his humanity, Chauvin could not connect with the pain and suffering of the man whom he crushed to death under his knee.
The cry for defunding the police is to save the soul of police officers. To limit their ability to carry a gun is to save their soul. We also need to limit the number of years a person can be in power so we can save their humanity.
Throwing the police in prison for killing the powerless does not give justice to the victim or makes society safer. To change the system that is built around misuse of power, we must make those with power accountable to the powerless.