Wednesday, April 28, 2021



In my last post, I expressed how in the lead-up to the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, African Americans were anxious, even terrified, about an acquittal for the ex-police officer. It was a fear on multiple levels, but the overarching dread was, "If they can't or won't convict a police officer [Derek Chauvin] with all this overwhelming evidence, then we're doomed."

In the seconds before the triple guilty verdict, I cringed with my eyes shut tight, and then I was able to breathe again after all three charges were answered to. I was intrigued by Chauvin's look of genuine puzzlement and were it not for his Covid mask, we might have seen his jaw go slack. Wait, what did you just say? You meant not guilty, right?

The abject fear of a Chauvin acquittal is what tempered the response of the crowd outside the Minneapolis court: rather than jubilation, it was one collective sigh of relief. A few people interviewed on TV after the court ruling talked about how justice had finally been fulfilled in a case of a citizen's death at the hands of the police. But the next day, probably even the same day, more than one activist or TV talking head pointed out that justice would have been George Floyd not being assaulted, tortured, and killed because of his allegedly trying to pass a fake $20 bill, or Daunte Wright not being shot by a policewoman, which event occurred while Chauvin's trial was ongoing. On the very day of Chauvin's conviction, a policeman shot Ma'Khia Bryant during an altercation outside the home. Two more shootings, of Adam Toledo and Andrew Brown, made the headlines in rapid succession. So, after a brief period of relief and a very much restrained celebration, we were back where we started.

The two main factors that contributed to Chauvin's conviction were (1) the bravery, foresight, and clear thinking of then 17-year-old Darnell Frazier, who filmed the entire horrific incident with a steady hand. 

Darnell Frazier at work with her phone (Image: Minneapolis Police)

(2) the meticulous presentation by the prosecution team who took the jury members through an eye-opening process from the beginning of the tragedy to the very end. The evidence was overwhelming, and the lawyers also used psychological techniques to their advantage, e.g. they told the jury that this was a trial of one police officer and not of all police. Actually, that's only partially true, but it was a good means of swaying that possible juror who might have believed that the police can do no wrong.

The solid prosecution undoubtedly arose from that video, which was so powerful that it was difficult to dispute. Without it, the official Minneapolis Police report that stated blandly that Floyd's death had been due to a "medical incident" might have gone without challenge and ex-officer Chauvin might not ever have been charged. This kind of dishonest glossing over the truth has been and will continue to be the case in many deaths at the hands of law enforcement around the country. As I write this, a serious case of possible police coverup is unfolding in the killing of Andrew Brown in North Carolina. 

The conviction of Chauvin is neither a representation nor a fulfillment of justice for African Americans. Because it's unlikely that white policemen will anytime soon look at black people as anything else but evil spirits that need to be annihilated, enforcements will have to be imposed on law enforcement. That's where the Department of Justice comes in. I have confidence that AG Merrick Garland will proceed in that direction and bring the full power of the US government to bear.


  1. Well said, Kwei. The Chauvin verdict isn't high tide, but just maybe it's a sign that the tide is turning.

  2. I agree, Kwei. 100%. I do also hold some small hope that seeing the testimony of the Minneapolis policemen, others in other precincts will find the conscience and the courage to break the blue wall of silence. We will need them once new rules are in effect, because testimony in court will still often be needed against those not swept out by reforms.

  3. Being in Minneapolis, four blocks from the court, was very strange. I walked past the building several times a week. There was little sign of tense protest - just a few people selling BLM teeshirts, a lot of media setups, and of course National Guard and lots of fencing. Yet, despite this outwardly calm face, there was definitely a pervasive tenseness in the Twin Cities. Everyone I know watched the verdict being read, and many cried with relief. What worries me most is that the trial will be taken by many as an end in itself, rather than a small step in what is going to be a very long process to right the wrongs of American society.

  4. A genuine sense of relief at the verdict is a good thing. Accepting it as an end in and of itself is not. It's up to those who experienced the former to do what they must to prevent the latter.