Boru: This is just the beginning of long and overdue justice served

The world breathed a sigh of relief after the “guilty, guilty, guilty” verdict. Will it last? Or will the other Chauvins of America be excused from trial?

Luul+Boru+profile

Luul Boru

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd incited mass protests not only in Minneapolis but all around the world. Almost a year after his death, justice was served in his name. On April 20, 2021, the world waited for a verdict, hoping that justice would be served, finally. People held their breath up until the moment that the verdict of guilty on all three counts was read. Celebratory hugs, tears and relief were seen across the nation. It is about time and it is long overdue.

Now what? That is the lingering question. Are there going to be police reforms? What about changes in the criminal justice system? Will the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, which passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, be passed in the U.S. Senate and implemented? Convicting Chauvin was just the tip of the iceberg and the beginning of a much needed change. Police brutality in America is a disease rooted deeply in our system. But we can not heal a sick plant unless we change its soil. A major reform in our criminal justice system and the reeducation and adequate training of police officers will be necessary for a change.

How many more Black people have to be subjected to violence from the same entity that promises to provide them with protection and safety? How many more Black Lives Matter protests have to be held to call attention to the abuse of Black and brown people at the hands of law enforcement? Safety is promised to Americans as a constitutional right, yet the promise is broken when Black and brown people are murdered using excessive force. Excessive force by a law enforcement officer is any force used which exceeds what is necessary to gain compliance or control. George Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” echoed Eric Garner’s “I can’t breathe,” as a New York Police Department officer wrestled Garner to the ground in an illegal chokehold. There have been countless victims of police brutality, yet little to no police accountability or change has occurred. This has stripped normal childhoods away from Black children, replacing them with a constant fear of law enforcement.

It is heartbreaking that Black children have to grow up so early and have to learn the harsh reality of where they stand in society. As soon as they start to understand their surroundings, parents have to have “the talk” with them. Kenya Young, the executive producer of NPR’s Morning Edition, said “the talk” with her three boys went something like this: “Don’t wear your hood. Don’t put your hands in your pocket. If you get stopped, don’t run. Put your hands up. Don’t make a lot of moves.” Imagine having to tell your children this over and over again. It cultivates a lack of hope in the government that is of the people, by the people, for the people. Democracy becomes a mirage.

The tension, fear and hatred of police by minorities, Black people especially, will be everlasting as long as Black and brown people are subjected to racial discrimination, incarceration, implicit and explicit bias, and all other forms of discrimination. If our federal, state and local governments are truthful about police reform, then major criminal justice reform and police reeducation and bias training can serve to alleviate tension, reduce the number of police shootings and decrease racial profiling when police are involved in communities. Bias training will do no good if it is not practiced in the field, where police and civilians are allowed to sit together for uncomfortable conversations.

Change has to happen within our criminal justice system, and police have to be held accountable for taking lives. I cannot help but think that police are trained to “shoot to kill” if they pull over a Black or brown person, so long as a slight movement is made to justify it. It is as if police are told that civilians are the enemy, as if they are in a war zone.

We are not the enemy. We are the people you serve. We are the community. We are people. We matter. Black Lives Matter!