This is the number of living, unsolved cases in oral history told from a barber’s chair or bar stool. It is also how hostility, resentment and contempt for police, criminal justice and politicians grows. That is why the foundations of our criminal justice system must be reshaped in order to restore confidence.
So, yes, we celebrate. Even warriors, in a difficult battle, those who are overwhelmed and used to loss, are entitled to a moment of celebration over a surprise victory. Such moments can be rechargeable and restorative. This does not mean that we confuse the war that still rages on for the battle in which we were victorious.
Part of the war is fighting the rules at all levels of government that isolate officers and criminalize black people. The systems of racism that created segregation, concentrated poverty, resource poor communities and failing education systems are part of the war. Part of the problem is the public perception that what afflicts black people is pathological and that all police services are good and gallant.
It’s important to remember that the verdict against Derek Chauvin hasn’t changed a single police union rule that protects officers from incriminating themselves. It hasn’t changed a word of the penal code, which may protect them from prosecution. It did not change a single federal or Supreme Court precedent that prevented them from being sentenced.
There are huge hurdles to overcome when arresting, charging, trying and convicting an officer. What this case has shown is that there is – at least in this jurisdiction and with these jurors – a limit. It took a case so obvious, so blatant, so depraved, that he could overcome obstacles.
In this extraordinary case, there was justice for George Floyd. But until justice for black people killed by the state does not only exist in the extraordinary case but also in the mundane, until it is not shocking that an officer is held responsible for the murder , the crusade continues. A battle is won, but we are still in the midst of the war for equality.