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Does Derek Chauvin’s Guilty Verdict Make George Floyd Innocent?

GUILTY! Some call this justice. Some call this accountability. I call this one step in the right direction. Yesterday, Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd, was found guilty of three charges. When they announced the verdict, I saw a tear trickle down my husband’s face. My heart cried as it was flooded with emotions. I felt anger because the verdict could not bring George Floyd back. I felt saddened because there are still so many other individuals that too deserve justice. I felt joy because the goodness of the justice system prevailed. I felt a little rage because deep down inside, I know some still will not see George Floyd’s innocence. I felt helpless because I did not know how to make my husband’s heart not hurt.

I have a black father, a black husband, a black son, and four black brothers. So, for me – it is personal. George Floyd represented every black man I know. George Floyd and my black men – they are the same. They are men without the same privilege as the majority. Some people think of privilege as tangible assets. But privilege is waking up and not having to consider that who you are is a different person than who you must, many times, present to the world. Privilege is stepping out into this world and presumed by the majority as innocent.

Black Man, you are a symbol of strength.

At times, you present with your head slightly hung so that no one is intimidated.

Black Man, you are a being who radiates a melodic voice hovering between tenor and baritone.

At times, you present with a higher pitched tone so no one is frightened.

Black Man, you are a creative leader woven with imagination.

At times, you present as a humble assistant, so no one thinks you are trying to take their place.

Black Man, you are full of culture and style.

At times, you present in khakis and a polo so that nothing about you stands out.

Black Man, you are a fun jokester with the ability to bring joy to the somber.

At times, you present with a few intentional smirks, so you are not mistaken “for entertainment purposes only.”

Black Man, you are a lover of all types of music…to include rap.

At times, you present playing smooth jazz so that no one mistakes you for the neighborhood dope boy.

The paradoxes are true. Let me give you some examples.

When we begin wearing masks at the beginning of the pandemic, before my husband would leave the house, I would say things like, “Don’t forget you have on a mask and sunglasses, so please take your hoodie off when you go in the store.”

I also love shopping on Facebook Marketplace, and he usually does the pickup. However, before he goes anywhere, I send the seller a message saying things like, “My husband is coming. He’s in a black truck and has on a grey hat with a black face mask.” I do this because I do not want anyone to assume bad intentions and shoot first. Now, would this likely happen? No. However, recent history has shown us that it is possible. And the smallest of possibilities is too big of a risk for me.

I want my son to live in a world where his adolescent foolery is viewed as a “young person having fun” versus “the lewd acts of a thug.”

I want my brothers to live in a world where they can walk past a group of women and not have them all clutch their bags.

I want my husband to walk through a parking lot where the person in the parked car talking on their phone is not compelled to lock the door as he scoots past their car to get to ours.

I want my son to live in a world where he is not afraid to call the police if he is ever in need of help.

I want my brothers to live in a world where their past mistakes (that have been paid for) do not follow them for the rest of their earthly lives.

I want my husband to live in a world that loves him. I want him to live in a world where he is always presumed innocent. I want him to live in a world where he is encouraged to show up exactly as he is – clothed in his culture – wrapped in his creativity.

My husband’s tear drop (that he does not know I saw) may have been in response to yesterday’s verdict, but it is so much bigger than that. Yesterday’s verdict was not just for George Floyd. Yesterday’s verdict was for me. It was for you. Yesterday’s verdict was a victory for us all.

Cornel West said, “Never forget, justice is what love looks like in public.”

My Prayer: Dear God, may the rest of the world see black men just as You do.

*Because I am a lover, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the fact that this verdict means Chauvin’s family will suffer separation. I wish them well as they navigate this portion of their journey.

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