As we celebrate the well-deserved guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd, we should pause to consider what is left for us to do, and how we might get there.
In an NPR interview with Prof. Eddie Glaude, he challenged listeners to be mindful of “the fantasy of our inherent goodness.” He was referring to our notions of the goodness of the American Project, our pride in our democracy, in our system of justice. But if the past years have painfully shown, we have a lot of work to do to redeem the promise of our America.
The ACLU of Virginia also celebrated the conviction, but urged Virginians to focus on the work that remains, to make Virginia more just:
Time and again, Virginia lawmakers have shirked their responsibility to hold police accountable. This past legislative session, they killed bills to bypass qualified immunity – a federal legal shield that allows officers to avoid being sued for misconduct. The proposed bills would have stopped qualified immunity from being used as a defense in state courts so that people harmed by police could sue in Virginia courts, with Virginia judges and juries. Sadly, it’s not the first time this important legislation has been killed by lawmakers.
ARC urges you to contact your Virginia state legislators and Gov. Northam to urge them to support the elimination of the qualified immunity defense for law enforcement officers who harm or kill Virginia residents. Such efforts to eliminate the qualified immunity defense have died in the General Assembly over the past two years, in favor of significant, but less sweeping, police reforms. Police officers must believe that they may pay a personal price for their misconduct.
We must imagine an end to the police culture of violence, toward an ethic of public protection and service. As Eddie Glaude said, “[j]ustice is a practice, not an end.”