For the first time in many years, our
collective attention was riveted on a courtroom. We
nervously watched for the verdict in the prosecution of the
nine-minute and 29-second murder of George Floyd.
Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!
share in the sentiment expressed by most people that the
three guilty verdicts were correct. Former policeman Derek
Chauvin was appropriately held accountable for his loathsome
However, there was another current of thought, though, that
I found enlightening. Many people expressed it, but perhaps
the most notable person to give voice to this idea was the
United States president.
President Joe Biden said he was “relieved” at the verdict.
That fact alone—standing on the side of the road while the
celebratory parade goes by—is proof that we have
exponentially more to do.
Think about it. That case. That evidence. That crime.
And we were merely relieved to see Chauvin convicted?
The question—which history will answer—is whether this
verdict represents a singular exception or a turning point
on the road to the radical systemic transformation of our
police system and our society.
One White former police officer is found guilty of killing a
Black person, and then six more police killings of unarmed
Black people take place in the next 24 hours. The
State-sponsored slayings included a Black girl in Columbus
who was shot simultaneously as the nation sat raptly waiting
for the verdict in the Minneapolis Courthouse.
Anyone who is “alive to the moment in which we are now
living” knows that merely being “relieved” won’t cut it. The
continuing unjustifiable slaughter of unarmed Black men,
women, and children by law enforcement has us living in a
perpetual state of emergency.
The total systemic transformation of the police is long
overdue. I am hopeful that this event will signal a pivot
in how we are policed. Individual officers must be
consistently held accountable for the crimes they commit
while wearing their badges.
The sun has risen and set more than 55,000 times since the
Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, and we are still
demanding to see its promise kept:
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge
the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United
States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life,
liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny
to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection
of the laws.
There’s a more significant idea that I believe is being
neglected in the pursuit of equal protection. That idea is
America was founded on many things, one of which was the
dehumanization of people of African descent. From the “3/5”
clause of the Constitution through slavery, the Civil War,
reconstruction, Jim Crow, separate but equal, and all the
way to that courtroom in Minneapolis, the idea continues to
exist that black lives are worth less than white lives.
Until we confront that uncomfortable truth, we cannot hope
to dismantle the system that it created.
Therefore, we must speak the truth, persistently and
courageously. We need a collective voice that includes
everyone willing to confront ugly truths and demand that we
abandon older inequitable simplicities for a new day.
The last year has opened eyes and changed minds. Thankfully,
a new generation has taken the baton and is increasingly
pressuring corporate America to take a stand on racism and
Simultaneously, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is being torn
down in statehouses across the United States.
Still, I am not without hope. But I don’t view hope as a
passive pursuit. Progress will only be made with action and
not by a docile going “quietly into the night.”
As a community and as a nation, we should
demand that Congress passes The
George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
(H.R. 1280), which:
Bans chokeholds on a federal level and some
no-knock warrants, especially in drug cases.
Lowers the criminal intent standard – from
willful to knowing or reckless – to convict police for
Limits qualified immunity used by police as a
defense in private civil action, enabling families to sue
more ably and quickly for unconstitutional actions against
Provides the Department of Justice with
administrative subpoena power in investigating police
Ends racial and religious profiling
Improves transparency by collecting data on
police misconduct and use-of-force
It is uncertain if our deeply divided Congress can make
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
a reality. History shows us only incremental progress
written in the books of law and not in our hearts. The
powers that be have promised people “someday” for so long
that it has begun to sound hollow.
For once – in a lifetime – the courts convicted a
white policeman in the murder of a black man. Feeling
“relieved” is not enough.
Instead, the final benchmark is this: Did the
conviction make a difference? Did it change the course of
America? Did it transform the system? Did it lead to justice
When that happens, then we all can breathe a sigh of
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at