Kueppers: We’re just getting started.

The jury made the right decision regarding Derek Chauvin, but justice is not as simple as one conviction.


Glued to my laptop, when I heard the word “guilty” read three times in a row, a lot went through my mind. “Hell yes” was my first thought. “Screw you, Derek” was probably my second. Then, I began to think more broadly: Does this mean we are actually starting to see change in our justice system? What will come next for reform in the policing system? Will the police loot Target in response to the verdict? I could not fully come up with all the answers at the moment, but after sleeping on it, I decided it was finally time for me to collect my thoughts and reflect on the historic moment that transpired yesterday in Minnesota.

Let me start by making one thing clear: I 100% am happy, relieved and excited that Derek Chauvin was found guilty on every charge made against him, which included second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. It was the right — nay, practically indisputable — choice. I want to say all this as a preface to my next statement because it will sound incredibly contradictory to my explanation. Because you see, while I agree with what the jury decided, what we saw yesterday was not justice. It was accountability.

We (mostly white people) need to understand that the jury’s delivery of a guilty verdict to Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd showed accountability. In my opinion, that was not justice. Justice would be having George Floyd alive today and his family living without trauma and grief. Justice would be having a world where Black citizens do not have to put their hands on their dashboard and hit record on their phones every time they get pulled over in traffic. Justice is having a nation where we do not have a young man named Daunte Wright killed little more than a week before a jury delivered a guilty verdict for Chauvin — yet another innocent Black man. What we saw when Chauvin was sashayed away in handcuffs was accountability. In my opinion, accountability means that we are holding people like Chauvin responsible for committing murder and seeing that he faces due processes of the law instead of being let go without consequences because he was a part of an established, powerful and systemically corrupt institution like the police system. And we needed to see accountability. It was most definitely a right first step in addressing the police brutality and racism that are so prevalent in our country. But the fight is not over, so do not mistake Tuesday for justice.

And listen, I’m not telling you not to celebrate. Black people in this country especially have been burned so often by the justice system that they deserve a win. In cases like Philando Castile’s, Breonna Taylor’s and so many more, we should have seen more accountability and punishment laid out for officers who ended up walking away scot-free. So, I hope people were able to find some solace and jubilation following yesterday’s court proceedings. Or, I hope they were able to react the way they wanted to. Whatever people in the Black community were feeling, it was justified, and I hope my community members take care of themselves. But for people who think this verdict solved everything and that it is complete and swift justice, you are as ignorant as someone who thinks it is a good idea to become a cop in 2021.

Convicting a despicable and delusional former police officer for murdering in broad daylight, a murder filmed on multiple cell phones, does not mean we have fixed our nation’s policing system. Scrolling through Twitter last night, I read a tweet that said, “The work and trauma that went into getting justice for just one man still means this system is broken,” and honestly, I think that sums up the situation pretty well. Derek Chauvin being found guilty was not a solution to systemic racism, which is the bedrock upon which our damning and destructive policing system was built upon. The United States still devalues Black lives daily. This trial was a crucial stepping stone in moving our country in the right direction, but it was not a be-all and end-all solution. So, how do I suggest we move forward? There seems to be only one clear solution: It is time to dismantle the policing system.

What do I mean when I say, ‘dismantle the system?’ Easy. The end goal of dismantling the United States police system is to restructure and reimagine policing, an establishment in our nation with far too much power and systemic problems — you know, like killing innocent members of our Black, Indigenous and people of color communities. You start with steps like defunding or allocating most funds we use for the police to other community needs or programs. For example, there are talks in Minneapolis of funding local community mediators or traffic patrol officers to take the place of responsibilities usually held by the police. I think this makes complete sense because why on earth should someone be armed with a gun and various other lethal weapons when they are pulling someone over for a broken taillight?

Speaking of alternatives like community mediators leads me to the next part of dismantling, which is disbanding the police and reimagining the system. We need to take apart the policing structure after we have substantially weakened it (defunding) and essentially start from scratch. We build new rules, like banning the use of chokeholds. We develop new standards, like having only unarmed traffic officers respond to traffic needs, and create specialized departments for varying needs and situations in our communities so police are not the ones who go to every scenario from armed robbery to a cat stuck up in a tree. Finally, we start new training to build a “policing” system that will actually benefit and serve the entire community and not result in the deaths of more innocent Black people. I mean, for crying out loud, even the Justice Department is coming to visit Minnesota to investigate our policing practices. Is that not a red flag to anyone else that we have clearly let the police run rampant and destroy our communities for too long now?

There are many obstacles to dismantling the police, such as conservative policymakers, police unions and lots of other bureaucratic bullshit, but I do not really want to talk about that. I don’t want to dedicate any time in my column to the people who think we should not dismantle a corrupt institution. I only want to talk about what we can do moving forward to make things right in our country. To me, this means continuing to fight the status quo and systemic structures in our society that continue to oppress minority groups. It means continuing to protest and question common practices. It means continuing to educate ourselves and listen to one another to innovate new ways to change our policing system.

It may not mean much, considering they are probably just trying to find peace and solace after a terrible and traumatic year of life, but with the last few words of my article, I would like to express my love to the family of George Floyd: He deserved better. You deserved better.