While we were still processing the myriad emotions we experienced following last Tuesday’s conviction of Derek Chauvin, the news covered stories of two more Black men shot by police, Andrew Brown and Isaiah Brown. In all, police officers killed over 64 people during the 3 weeks of the trial (NYT) and another 6 in the 24 hours following the verdict. Although the US population is approximately 1/3 Black and Latine, Black and Latine deaths account for over half of the shootings. We mourn the loss of life and the grief and trauma experienced by those closest to these incidents.
Most of the recipients of this email have dedicated their lives to education in their hope for human flourishing and a peaceful future. What more might we be doing in our classrooms today to move our hopes toward reality? What conversations do we need to be having?
Reflections on a Verdict of Guilty
The guilty verdict rendered for Derek Chauvin was a step forward in accountability. This step forward adds hope to the continuous work necessary to dismantle the systems that perpetuate racism, erasure, and inequity for People of the Global Majority—in this case, anti-Blackness.
In our view, this murder trial represented accountability more than justice. Justice would be Black and Brown men, women, and children living after encountering the police. Justice would be Daunte Wright witnessing the verdict too. Justice would also be Ma’Khia Bryant and Adam Toledo being given the chance to reach adulthood. Justice would be adults and children of color being given the same consideration as those who are white. Justice would also be our nation analyzing how the foundation of policing has deep roots in hunting Indigenous and enslaved peoples and the implications that brings to our current system of law and order.
We offer these examples of justice to help us and, in turn, our students, who represent all races, ethnicities, and classes, reflect on what justice would look like and recognize the difference between justice and accountability. Accountability happens after the fact and may help us get to justice. But, justice means stopping harm before it happens. Justice means seeing and honoring humanity.
George Floyd cried out for his mother, Larcenia (Ms. Sissy), who passed in 2018. Adam Toledo’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo, saw video of her son dying. Ma’Khia Bryant’s mother mourns the loss of her “beautiful baby.” Isaiah Brown, Andrew Brown Jr, and others were children, parents, siblings and cousins. For all the families who have lost children and children who have lost family, we stand with you and beside you. In this work for justice we reflect on Maya Angelou’s Our Grandmothers:
“I go forth along, and stand as ten thousand.”
Sara Suchman, Executive Director