Like many across the country, the Louisville Urban League was anxiously awaiting the verdict in the criminal case against Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. We were hopeful that we would see, what should have been, certain justice, but we were all too aware that we have been let down many times before. With the announcement of a guilty verdict, we are relieved that this is not one of those times. While we recognize the gravity of today’s verdict, we also understand that there is a needed sea change in policing in America. We grieve with the families that have lost loved ones to police violence in Minneapolis, Louisville — across this country.
There will be attempts to analyze the trial, praise the prosecution, and there will most certainly be calls for peace and reconciliation. But we must start with an acknowledgment of the compound traumas and grief that racist and oppressive systems inflict upon Black bodies and minds at every possible turn.
George Floyd should not be dead. His murder was an act of trauma on our community and country. The time it took to fire, indict and arrest Derek Chauvin inflicted trauma. This trial, in and of itself, while masterfully executed, has levied a level of trauma for those of us with the strength to endure it.
It is also important to recognize something critical happened during this trial. We saw several law enforcement officers take the stand against one of their own and without equivocation or serious rebuttal, declared the actions of a fellow officer to be wrong, contrary to training and unacceptable. In the presence of so many other examples of “good cops” turning a blind eye to bad behavior by their colleagues, this is but a small departure from the norm, but it is not insignificant. And we hope that it is a sign of what is possible and a new direction for our country.
Of course we know we have further to go. Like many of you, we were alarmed and disappointed by a video showing the arrest of Denorver “Dee” Garrett who was brutalized by the Louisville Metro Police during an attempt to detain him for an alleged misdemeanor offense. After a year of social unrest and active response to the killings of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee, it is disheartening to see these types of brutal tactics still in use against members of our community. This type of misconduct only serves to erode what little public trust remains. Our system of policing and the incestuous nature of judge, prosecutor and police relationships must be dismantled and redesigned anew. But that will not happen overnight. It will require real work and commitment to change.
In the meantime, we have always known that officers are capable of better. We see it in the treatment of other communities every day. And while the testimony of officers in the Chauvin trial and the statements by Louisville Police Chief Erika Shields are positive steps toward accountability, the reality remains that we must deal with the violent inequities of treatment before they happen and challenge a system of implicit bias that is prevalent in police, policy and behavior.
If this city, or this country, is to ever know prolonged peace, every person, regardless of race, zip code, must be met with humanity. And when those principles are breached; truth, transparency and justice must swiftly follow.
As always, we remain hopeful and stand ready to serve. We encourage community members to use the mental health resources at their disposal or to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need referrals. We are experiencing compound trauma, and we cannot ignore the impact it is having on our community.
The Louisville Urban League assists African Americans and those at the margins in attaining social and economic equality and stability through direct services and advocacy. For more information, go to lul.org or follow on Facebook , Twitter (@louisvilleUL) or Instagram (@louisville_ul).