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Tracy Jones: Guilty verdict for Chauvin is relief, not victory

The guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial is a relief, but not a victory.

A victory is when we no longer need a witness to record the murder of a Black man in order to recieve some sense of justice, when Black people are not incarcerated into modern-day slavery, or murdered by police in modern-day lynchings. As stated by the Movement for Black Lives organization, “A conviction is not justice; our communities deserve more.”

How can we expect equity and liberation under an unjust racist system? We need more. We need to acknowledge that since the inception of this country, law enforcement was specifically designed to oppress Black people, and it remains a racist system.

The first organized law enforcement was the Slave Patrol, created in the South in 1704.

According to scholar Sally E. Hadden, “Slave patrols had three primary functions: (1) to chase down, apprehend, and return to their owners, runaway slaves; (2) to provide a form of organized terror to deter slave revolts; and (3) to maintain a form of discipline for slave-workers who were subject to summary justice, outside the law, if they violated any plantation rules.

“Following the Civil War, these vigilante-style organizations evolved in modern Southern police departments primarily as a means of controlling freed slaves who were now laborers working in an agricultural caste system, and enforcing Jim Crow segregation laws, designed to deny freed slaves equal rights and access to the political system,” Hadden wrote, in “Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas” (Harvard University Press, 2001).

America moved from slavery and lynching to Jim Crow, to redlining, to mass incarceration, to police brutality. These are white supremacy tactics created within the system to continue the oppression of Black people. The economic disparities American Blacks face are worse now than they were in 1968 during the Civil Rights Movement! What does that tell you?

It’s hard to feel like this verdict is a win for the Black community when our people continue to die at the hands of law enforcement for no other reason than being Black. This verdict hasn’t stopped police brutality. In fact, while the verdict was being decided, a 16-year-old Black girl named Ma’Khia Bryant was shot and killed in Columbus, Ohio, by a white police officer. Six Black people were killed within 24 hours of Chauvin’s guilty verdict. While Bryant’s dead body lay on the ground some people reported a police officer said, “Blue lives matter.” Let me remind you that “blue lives” don’t exist. Policing is an occupation, not a life. The spread of this viewpoint is another example of America’s blatant white supremacy.

We need guilty verdicts for Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Philando Castille, Makiyah Bryant, Breonna Taylor and so many more. But guilty verdicts won’t bring them back, which is why there is no real celebration or feeling of justice with this verdict.

We are dying. This is genocide. What this should do is open people’s eyes to what is going on in this country, There is a war on Black people.

The fact that America had to get to this point – where a white man is recorded commiting cold blooded murder of a Black man in public with no remorse – means America is the problem. This system needs to be rebuilt for all people of color. We are fighting for Black liberation and we are not going to stop.

Our community needs to take action by divesting from law enforcement and investing in community needs such as mental health, housing, employment and restorative justice.

Reform has not worked in the past. We need a complete reimagining of what safety looks like. Lives depend on it. Join the fight for Black liberation because Black Lives Matter.

Tracy Jones is an organizer, activist and director of the local organizations Southwest Movement for Black Lives and Durango Peace and Justice.