By Nickie Hayes
On April 20, 2021, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges. It was a momentous decision for the Floyd family and the Black Lives Matter movement. However, the impact of this trial is just starting to reveal itself.
Butterfly Blaise Biore is the Title IX coordinator and an adjunct professor at SUNY Plattsburgh’s communications department. She explained what had happened initially that led to this trial.
“Derek Chauvin put his knee on the throat of George Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds and killed him,” Biore said.
Biore explained that, in her eyes, the outcome of the trial was the only reasonable result.
“From a logical perspective, in my mind, there was no way that the verdict could not be guilty,” she said. “However, I was still surprised and the reason being I’m 41 years old and have seen so many Black lives lost, and no one be held accountable.”
Mikaela Mcneil is a Black woman attending SUNY Cortland. She plans to become a lawyer and a senator in the future. She said she did watch the trial, and she said it was actually part of one of her assignments to watch the trial.
“Seeing it and kind of just reliving the day I found out what had happened was heart wrenching,” Mcneil said. “I really was so scared of him (George Floyd) not getting justice, and how America would react if he didn’t get the justice he deserved.”
Mcneil said growing up in a Black family led her to be taught what to do, how to act and what to say when encountering a person in law enforcement. She said she feels uneasy, has constant anxiety and feels like she is walking on eggshells when she encounters an individual who is deemed to have a higher authority over her, like a police officer.
Mcneil said because of her support for the Black Lives Matter movement, her friendships have dwindled over the years. She talked about the idea of separating politics and relationships, but in this situation, that is not an option.
“Their politics are my life,” she said. “Especially as a Black woman, I have to be on my toes 24/7, I have to look a certain way and talk a certain way or I’ll be deemed as like the angry Black girl.”
The Black Lives Matter Movement triumphed in achieving liability for George Floyd’s death after the verdict was announced for this case.
Biore said that she is cautious to speak from the perspective of a movement that she supports as an ally since she is not a Black person herself or a part of the Black community. However, she said the verdict supports the Black Lives Matter cause in that it is working to end police brutality and hold officers accountable.
“From my perspective, what happened in this situation with this person being found guilty is accountability, but it is not justice,” she said.
She explained that the fact that there is still a need to protest, fight, and have trials because Black people are being killed is not justice in her eyes. She believes that justice will not be carried out until this occurs.
She also makes an important delineation about the word justice.
“In this situation, the justice system delivered the result that it should have,” she said. “But when you think about justice as an umbrella term or overall concept, justice will look like Black men and Black women not having to worry about leaving their homes and coming back alive.”
She said justice to her is an America where the fear of law enforcement is not present and Black lives are not being taken. She also stated that she hopes this verdict gave members of Black communities across the country a feeling of relief. As well, she hopes this verdict swings the pendulum toward having more accountability and police reform in the future.
Mcneil said justice is different for everyone in each Black community. Mcneil said that justice to her means education. Specifically, education of what multicultural communities have to endure on a daily basis.
“I feel people really just don’t understand the feelings or the fears, or what it means to be a Black person,” she said.
She said she does not know if those that are privileged will ever truly understand, but she hopes there will be a way to create a more open-minded society.
On the other side of the political spectrum, there will be an impact, but right now that is not fully known. The Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter movements are racist, destructive countermovements within the United States that belittle the experiences of Black Americans, Biore said.
She hopes individuals who are a part of the Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter countermovements may rethink being a part of those groups after this verdict. If not that, she hopes there will be the ability to bridge gaps between the different affiliations within the country. However, she said maybe there would be zero impact at all.
Setting aside politics, the broadcasting of this trial has an immense impact in itself. Biore said, cases are often tried in the court of public opinions, but the public does not always have all the essential information or the expertise.
“Having the trial televised, again, closes those gaps. There are no longer things left for interpretation. It is all being shown to you,” she said.
As well, she believes having the trial televised reinforces the importance of George Floyd’s life and the idea that this trial should be an American issue to face.
“Another issue we have for individuals who are privileged and specifically white people is we can turn off the TV, we can go away from social media, we can choose days where we don’t fight back on these important issues because it is not part of our everyday experience,” she said.
In saying this, Biore believes that the trial being televised raises awareness of this. The trial pushed people to acknowledge the situation, she said. As well, she said the historical implication of this verdict is another reason why it is crucial this trial was televised.
This trial and verdict may also put to the forefront of American society controversial concepts in need of change, such as police reform. Biore said defunding the police does not mean getting rid of them. Instead, it means things like changing policies, changing funding and restructuring community resources.
Mcneil said she got stopped in December 2020 by a police officer and was honestly scared for her life. She explained her worst fear is having something happen to her two older brothers, but she knows she should not have to have these fears.
Biore feels the police are being asked to respond to situations that should not be considered police matters. She said taking some of the resources they have and allocating them to other areas would allow experts in their field to respond to these types of situations. Social workers or counselors would be the most logical individuals to intervene because this is what they are trained to do, she said.
In communities that have defunded the police and changed policing procedures, there
have been no incidents regarding Black lives being lost. She gave an example of Newark, New Jersey, and the results they put out after implementing these alterations.
“You can support your police and support Black lives, but if you’re supporting the police, you have to know the faults of the police and understand there’s room for improvement,” Mcneil said.
Mcneil said she believes that there are better ways for police officers to handle these situations, and longer training may help. She compares that she will be going through eight years of law school just to get a degree, and police officers only need six months to a year of training.
Mcneil also believes in police reform and using funding for police wisely. She said that having psychiatrists as a part of the police department would help to de-escalate certain situations and create new jobs.
“The only way there is going to be real justice is if there is systemic change,” Biore said.
In broader terms, defunding the police is not the only thing that is in need of reform. Biore said at the governmental level, the federal administration has to create new legislation that makes things like putting one’s knee on another’s throat illegal. She believes the federal authorities need to step in immediately to bring about contemporary policies on systemic issues, where the current policies are antiquated and racist. She hopes the new administration will act and act quickly to implement that change.
Mcneil said the system currently in the United States is racist and favors the white person. She believes that change will start with the government and maybe even changing the Constitution itself.
“The white allies that we (Black Lives Matter movement) have understand that and use their privilege to help other people, to help get that word across, which is so beneficial,” Mcneil said.
She believes it is good to have these white allies because they can reach those who may not be as willing to listen. She said spreading awareness is a process, and it would involve reconstructing belief systems that are embedded in American society.
She also said that, with Joe Biden in office, she feels safer and she is not on edge all of the time. Mcneil said the previous four years were the scariest time of her life.
Mcneil is hopeful that the new presidential administration will initiate systemic change. However, she specified that she hopes the new vice president will be a leader in making those changes because she is biracial and has an understanding of what Black communities have been going through in America.
Many improvements still need to be made in America right now, but the verdict of this trial brings the United States one step closer to justice for Black lives, Biore said.
“I don’t want people to give up cause I know that happens all the time. Police brutality has been going on forever It’s just now being documented. So, keep recording,” Mcneil said.
To support and learn more about the Black Lives Matter movement, their website is Black Lives Matter: Home.