Our staff was on our weekly zoom check-in when the news broke that Derek Chauvin had been found guilty on all counts for the murder of George Floyd. Sighs of relief and release filled our shared virtual space, and emotion was palpable as we processed the verdict. Defying our default expectation, it felt right to know that this time, there would be accountability and some level of redemption and peace for the family and friends of — George Floyd — and to an extent, the country.
What we didn’t realize on that zoom call, was that just minutes prior to the verdict’s reading, police in Ohio fatally shot a 16-year-old girl, Ma’Kiah Bryant, after she’d called police seeking help after several “older kids” had threatened her with assault.
Since testimony for the Chauvin trial began on March 29, at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide. Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy, was killed by police in Chicago on March 29. Daunte Wright’s life was taken on April 11th, just miles away from the courthouse where the trial was being heard. Locally, the family of Krys Brandon Ruiz is calling on the state Attorney General to investigate his death at the hands of Lompoc police on March 28.
So, while we join the nation in commending this verdict — we understand that this single conviction, though a step in the right direction, is not a substitute for policy change. This single conviction does not absolve a broken system. The sense of relief collectively felt on Tuesday was fleeting. The timing of the killing of Ma’Kiah Bryant is the strongest indictment on this country’s system of policing — a reminder that while police continue to take lives, disproportionately Black and Brown lives, there is no justice.
It is important to affirm that Tuesday’s conviction represents individual accountability, and while we understand that accountability is essential, it is not justice.
Justice is when all systems of exploitation and oppression have been dismantled.
Justice is police officers not having to be convicted because they are not killing anyone in the first place.
Justice is a future where safety actually exists.
True Justice would mean that George Floyd, and countless others, would still be alive.
It is up to us to reimagine and create a future where justice is possible.
Marcos Vargas is executive director and Alina Rey Keswani is development and communications manager for the Fund for Santa Barbara.