For activists, advocates and communities of color, the urgency behind the need for police reform does not end with the guilty verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin was found guilty on all charges after kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, the killing caught on camera. The graphic images of Floyd’s murder ignited a movement across the country, forcing the nation to begin to reckon with how people of color are treated at the hands of law enforcement.
While the verdict offers the loved ones of Floyd justice and a sort of solace, it’s a consolation that can never replace his life. Additionally, the movement that ballooned after his murder was never about just one case, it is about a trauma visited upon communities of color all too often when Black people are killed during encounters with police who are serving as judge, jury and — ultimately — executioner.
It’s a sentiment not lost on Vice President Kamala Harris.
“This verdict is but a piece of it,” Harris said in an interview with CNN ahead of the verdict being announced. “And it will not heal the pain that existed for generations, that has existed for generations among people who have experienced and first-hand witnessed what now a broader public is seeing because of smartphones and the ubiquity of our ability to videotape in real time what is happening in front of our faces. And that is the reality of it.”
The verdict presents a challenge to President Joe Biden who has acted as the “consoler in chief” to the Floyd family, offering calls to comfort the family before and after the verdict. Biden must go beyond kind words of empathy if he plans to make good on his promise to create transformative change on police reform and institutional racism.
White House officials have referred to passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as its “top priority” for the administration as it relates to police reform. The legislation passed the House of Representatives last month, but chances of passing in the Senate are slim at best where it faces staunch Republican opposition.
Partisan division will not lessen the pressure to act on police reform for the Biden administration, and in the aftermath of the verdict the call to build on the momentum created by this case will only grow louder.
“The fight has to continue because there are so many other families that have not received justice,” said Floyd’s niece Bianca after hearing the verdict in Houston.
The yellow paint that marks “Black Lives Matter” outside of the White House in Washington should be a reminder to the Biden administration that, for so many, the work of truly dignifying Black lives remains unfinished.
The demand for change will continue.
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