Seeking justice in the systems that oppress us is never the way to go.
Yesterday, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges brought against him in his trial for the murder of George Floyd, a rarity when law enforcement systematically and compulsively murders Black people and gets away with it. Thirty minutes before the verdict was read, police in Columbus Ohio murdered a 16-year-old Black girl, her name was Ma’Khia Bryant. This year alone, police have shot and killed 173 people, not including the month of April. You cannot, in any way state, that this is a system based or built upon anything except violence.
According to the New York Times, “Since testimony in Derek Chauvin’s trial began on March 29, more than three people a day have died at the hands of law enforcement.” According to CNN, Black children are six times more likely to be shot to death than any other race in America. I’m not here to simply give you statistics, but to explain to you that expecting justice from systems that oppress us is never going to amount to justice. We need abolition and we need to fight for it now.
The ruling against Derek Chauvin is one thing: pacification. This ruling was used as a way to pacify people, to get people to believe that we can find justice in an unjust system. This trial was an illusion of justice while simultaneously keeping justice systems intact. This trial was pacification, not justice. There is no justice until we abolish and defund the police and rebuild the entire system so that it is based on social equity for all people, not social equity for white people only.
In an article by Rachel Treisman for NPR, she states, “Between 2005 and Floyd’s murder last year, only five non-federal law enforcement officers were convicted of murder in an on-duty shooting and not had the conviction later overturned.”
Eric Garner, like George Floyd, had his murder filmed, like George Floyd he was choked to death, the officer that murdered him was never charged. Michael Brown was murdered by police in Ferguson, the officer that murdered him was never charged. Sandra Bland was hung in her cell, the officers were never charged. Breonna Taylor, whose murder happened right before George Floyd’s murder, never got justice. The list goes on and on and on. There is a pattern here and that pattern is obvious. Black people are systematically murdered by police, 75% of the police who murder Black people are white.
This is why I don’t care about the guilty verdict, because one cop being found guilty means nothing in a system that was built on injustice. You cannot reform the slave patrols, you cannot expect justice from a justice system that is unjust. Also, we have not yet heard how Chauvin will be sentenced and there has not been enough time, clearly, to see if his conviction will be overturned, and let me tell you right now, his legal team will try.
Chauvin is racist, he had eighteen complaints in nineteen years and a murder charge. He was known to be violent. For him to still be an officer of the law took a ridiculous lack of judgment from those around him. Nobody did anything to prevent this, not the three other cops who were there (who have not yet been charged), and not his supervising officials. That alone shows you how corrupt the system is if everything else I have listed above has not.
The criminal justice system consists of the police, the courts, and corrections. Every single one of those systems is corrupt, not broken, corrupt. I will not say that these systems are broken, they are working exactly how they were meant to work. The police work exactly how they were meant to work, they protect white people and white property. Police do not stop crime and yet they receive anywhere from $100 million a year (Virginia Beach, Virginia) to $5 billion a year (New York City). Police department appropriations generally account for the largest share of the budget in 35 of the 50 largest cities
That money, instead of going to the police, could be going to help at-risk communities and actually reduce crime. Crime rarely happens in affluent white neighborhoods, crime happens out of necessity and in mostly Black and Brown neighborhoods. This is because these neighborhoods and schools are underfunded, neglected, and over-policed.
Black people are also more likely to be arrested for petty crimes, this began after slavery was abolished. I am going to pause here to state and make it clear that slavery was never abolished, read the 13th amendment:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Because of the “except” in the 13th amendment, when slaves were freed, white people invented Black Codes and Pig Laws to make sure that they could arrest, charge, and convict Black people for petty crimes so that they could further enforce slavery as both a punishment and a way to continue to get free labor from Black people, this time via the prison industrial complex.
These Black Codes and Pig Laws still exist and allow for the entire criminal justice system (this includes judges, courts, and corrections) to systematically abuse Black people. This is why we need abolition and why we must continue to fight for abolition. We need to abolish these systems, not rely on them for justice. We need to continue to fight against these systems, and we must not stop until they are gone. We cannot reform the criminal justice system, we can only abolish it.
Celebrate if you want, feel your feelings, feel those sighs of relief, but understand that this is not justice. No cops would be justice. No criminal justice system that is systemically flawed would be justice. Take rest if you need to, recuperate if you need to, but do not stop fighting for abolition. Do not stop fighting to abolish these systems and defund the police. We cannot afford to be pacified now, we must continue to work every single day in order to build a better, more equitable system.
If you are interested in abolition, please check out Nikkita Oliver’s course on abolition, here, and consider purchasing the following books (copied/pasted from Nikkita’s web page).
- “Are Prisons Obsolete?” by Angela Davis (PDFs can be found here on “The Anarchist Library” and here for a more book-like version.)
- “Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement” Edited by Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
- “Color of Violence” The INCITE! Anthology edited by INCITE! WOmen of Color Against Violence
- “Invisible No more: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color” by Andrea J. Ritchie (The Invisible No More Study Guide)
- “Prison By Any Other Name” by Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law
- “Until We Reckon” by Danielle Sered (Find audio book here.)
- “Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect” A Truthout Collection (PDF can be found here on “The Anarchist Library.”)
We all need to work to educate ourselves and others around us, we need to consume literature that teaches us about abolition. We need to fight, now and forever, for what is right. This verdict means nothing while these murders continue to happen every day and these systems continue to operate on corrupt and systemically racist ideologies.
We are not finished, we’ve barely even started.