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The Black Lens: Black residents react to Derek Chauvin’s murder verdict

UPDATED: Tue., April 20, 2021

By The Black Lens For The Spokesman-Review

Sandy Williams, publisher and editor of The Black Lens – a newspaper focusing on issues in Spokane’s Black community – shared her thoughts on the Derek Chauvin verdict in the murder of George Floyd:

“The news kept showing images of businesses boarding up their stores in preparation for the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin. They had an expectation about what the verdict was going to be. So many of us had that same expectation, that this time, just like so many times before, a police officer who callously and senselessly snuffed out the life of a Black man, woman or child would walk away free as a bird, as if their actions had no consequence; as if the life that they had taken held no meaning at all.

“I couldn’t watch the trial. I couldn’t bring myself to relive the images of Derek Chauvin’s hollow eyes and expressionless face as he pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck, grinding the life out of his body. Hearing George Floyd cry for his mother one more time might just have made it impossible for me to find it in my heart to forgive or to keep looking for good in the people around me or to want to find a way for us to work together. So I stayed away. I didn’t look. I didn’t think. I didn’t dare allow myself to hope.

“I learned about the verdict from a text. I was relieved. Relieved that 12 jurors had courage. Finally. Relieved that police officers came forward to testify. Finally. Relieved that in this instance, this time, the verdict was as it should have been. Relieved that George Floyd’s family got the justice they deserved.

“But I am also angry. Angry that there was ever any doubt about the verdict in the first place. Angry that another Black man was killed while the trial was going on and that there will undoubtedly be many more to come. Angry that I still have to worry about the safety of the Black people that I care about. Every day. Angry that too many police officers see my Blackness as the enemy. Angry that in 2021, despite all that has happened over the past year, people in Spokane still tell me that they don’t see color.

“And I am worried. Worried that because of this verdict our country will now convince itself that it has solved the problem of police brutality and racial bias in policing, just as this country convinced itself that because we elected Barack Obama as president we had solved the problem of racism and white supremacy. We all know how that turned out.”

Williams also provided the thoughts of some key figures in Spokane’s Black community. Some respondents’ answers, provided in subsequent Spokesman-Review reports, were trimmed in print but remain in full online at spokesman.com.

Ginger Ewing, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Terrain Spokane

A single verdict does not fix a system. It does not automatically release someone from generations of trauma and pain. It doesn’t magically guarantee equity, or a fair chance in this world. And it most certainly doesn’t mean America’s work is done. But damn, it feels good to be seen. Just like others are seen. A tiny bit of hope. That change is possible. May your soul rest a little easier today George, and I’m sorry.

Kiantha Duncan, President, Spokane NAACP

Hold the Celebration: Today’s verdict in the former officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial has undoubtedly given many of us a sense of hope that there can be police accountability in America. This verdict has lead to peaceful rallies around the United States, people gathering to celebrate the justice system getting it right. While I feel some relief, it is short lived as I know that if our country’s criminal justice system does not remain stedfast in holding law enforcement officers accountable for negligent murders of black and brown people, we will find ourselves here again at this very intersection.

The officers who testified to the court and this country (including the Minnesota Police Chief) showed extreme bravery, more of that bravery is what will be needed to overhaul a criminal justice system and law enforcement culture where black and brown lives are routinely in danger.

We know what needs to be done both nationally and locally. I trust that in the City of Spokane we too have brave law enforcement officers and law enforcement leadership who will stand boldly with us to send the message that as a community, we too are committed to justice for all.

Walter Kendricks, pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church and Eastern Washington Commissioner for African American Affairs: The first thought that comes to mind regarding my feelings towards the guilty verdict rendered in the Derek Chauvin murder trial is “rejoiceful anger.”

I rejoice in the fact that 12 individuals saw this for what it was, the willful murder of a Man first, a Black Man second. A Black Man being murdered by the hands of Law Enforcement Officers has occurred far too often throughout the sordid history in this, “The great United States of America.”

My anger continues though, for the fact remains that without benefit of the video taken by a young Black girl, this incident would have been covered up, denied, and explained away, using the code words which are used to blame the victim, muddy his name, disrespect his family, and absolve those who are sworn to “serve and protect.” Rather, far too often, the aforementioned “seek then destroy,” rather than serve and protect.

Let us remember, there are three other trials needing to take place. These trials are for those Officers on the scene who did nothing to stop this incident from occurring. Four men are guilty of “Crimes against Humanity.” George Floyd deserves nothing less than guilty verdicts for all those who stood by doing nothing while his life slowly ebbed away, live and in color, for all the world to see.

Let us remember. George Floyd deserved better from Law Enforcement. He received better from the Justice system, though this verdict will not, cannot, restore his life.

Rejoiceful anger? You bet.

Taurus Richardson, member, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.: You would think that there would be a sense of relief after the verdict was read and yes the justice system got it right this time but the experience is just simply sad, traumatic and exhausting. It is a feeling the Black community knows oh so well. When I heard the verdict, I just sat still for a moment and was happy for the Floyd family. Justice has been served. Nevertheless we must remain resilient in strategic efforts to reshape police reform.

Shon Davis, pastor of Jesus is the Answer City Church: There is really not enough ink and paper that can contain the raw emotions of what Black Americans across this nation are feeling in response to the Derek Chauvin verdict. However, as a Black father who stood in front of the television holding my two Black boys close to my waist as the verdict of four white Los Angeles Police Department officers was announced as being not guilty and acquitted of all charges in April of 1992, of the public brutal and senseless beating of a motorist by the name of Rodney King, I remember falling to my knees in pain, feeling as though my heart was pulled from my chest. My two sons that I was holding in faith that justice would prevail, were now holding me on the floor crying for their dad.

As a native of L.A. and one that has personally experienced police brutality and oppressive policing in our community as a common everyday encounter, I now feel a sigh of relief. As my colleagues, friends and faith leaders shared their thoughts this morning in confidence of a guilty verdict because of the video that the whole world saw, my mind shifted to a video 29 years ago that the whole world saw and yet the verdict was still not guilty. However, I remained optimistic and sat with my wife as the verdict was read guilty on all three charges.

I am thankful that the jury got it right. I feel that this is and can be a step not just towards justice, but a step towards normalizing how we treat one another in this country. We cannot rest our morals on justice for one, as though we have won something. Not when the systemic culture of policing Black and Brown communities will eventually bring us right back to the streets in protest shouting for justice for another mother’s son or daughter who has become a hashtag and a photo on a T-shirt simply because the Black body presents a threat to biased policing across this country. Though I am one that agrees that we need police reform and police accountability. I am not an opponent of the need for more training, not when it’s the training that has got us here.

Let’s not be naive. Today’s verdict is not received in the same manner for all Americans. Though today has given Black Americans a moment to breathe. Let us take it in, because the work must go on.

Black Lives do Matter!

Jermaine M Williams, director of Freedom Project East: Guilty on all counts. Guilty on all criminal counts and still I refuse to celebrate. Chauvin has yet to be sentenced. Chauvin has yet to acknowledge the beautiful Blackness of George Floyd. Chauvin has yet to acknowledge the bias that contributed to the white supremacy that ultimately resulted in his murdering the brother George Floyd. Chauvin has yet to admit an iota of wrongdoing. The sad truth is part of me wants to celebrate getting a base hit in a game of 400 to 0. How many years have Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color been oppressed? I fancy myself an eternal optimist. My optimism is also rooted in reality. The reality is: this time they threw us a bone. Personally, I’ll get excited when they give us a meal. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel much differently after Chauvin’s sentencing (but I doubt it).

Dr. Shari Clark, PhD: A measure of justice occurred in the Chauvin verdict. It is a first step – the first of many steps needed for racial reconciliation. Our country needs to heal. The centuries of enslavement, injustice, discrimination & horrific brutality must be addressed. It is time for the difficult conversations to occur. White people must do the work internally on themselves and within their communities on issues of race and culture. We must all see the worth and value in every person. The pile upon pile of senseless murders of Black and Brown people are evidence that we have lost our moral center and the ability to see the humanity in every person. We have become experts in classifying someone different from ourselves as an other. The otherness enables brutality to occur because “that person is not like me.”

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