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Deep Negro Sigh or Still Holding Our Breath?: Black America’s Reaction to the Chauvin Trial Verdict

By: Brandon Bush

The afternoon of Tuesday, April 20, 2021 was a lot for many people, to say the least. It was announced that the jury had reached a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd and the world was waiting in limbo for the public announcement. People who had been terrorized by police, Black mothers who had lost their children, and Black children who lost their fathers waited anxiously to hear the rulings. Finally, presiding Judge Peter Cahill announced that Chauvin would be convicted on all three charges against him: second-degree murder for unintentional cause of death, third degree murder for reckless endangerment, and manslaughter for negligence.

It’s safe to say that for most people in the Black community, the verdict was a huge sigh of relief. However, there were still feelings of dissonance, dissension, and uneasiness conveyed by social media users. The mixed reactions to the rulings illustrated the spectrum of perspectives in community dialogue that often happens during these cases.

Some people felt very cynical and distrustful, citing the systemic racism that has kept Black people dying at the hands of police since the 1800s.They believe that this was not an accomplishment, but rather something that should not have happened in the first place; that this was not justice, but another tick on an already-too-long list of names that gets longer every time a police officer disregards a Black life.

Others were a bit more hopeful, citing feelings that this could be a signal towards change or that the Black community could finally breathe after a nearly month-long trial that many thought would result in no guilty verdicts at all. Many expressed the sigh of relief they let out upon hearing that Derek Chauvin would finally serve the time he deserved.

Of course, there were those who decided to take a bit more of a comedic route…

Then, there were those who reminded us that this was just a start, and that more work was to be done to ensure the conviction of any police officer who unjustly takes the life of racial minorities.

Regardless of where people stand, it is clear that police brutality and state-sanctioned violence continue to be a prominent issue. Many people are forced to come to grips with these daunting realities in harsh ways, especially during an era where social media and video recording is not only a thing that connects us but also captures some of the most horrific acts of violence against the Black community. Just recently – Chicago police shot 13-year old Adam Toledo; Minnesota gathered for the funeral of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, whose mother witnessed his death at the hands of police via Facetime; and Columbus police killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant as the public simultaneously awaited the Chauvin trial ruling. The terrorism towards the Black community by those sworn to protect them is constant reminder of the ever-present danger that looms over us.

Kesi Felton

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