Moments ago, a judge announced that a jury found former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd. Although the whole world witnessed George Floyd’s brutal killing—unfolding in broad daylight and in front of dozens of bystanders—history has given us plenty of reasons to doubt that justice would prevail, that there would be accountability for what some scholars have called a “public lynching.” But the jury affirmed what we all saw with our own eyes, that a man was murdered. And confirmed the truth of what we all know, that the actions of this police officer were anything but “reasonable.”
This conviction is a rare victory, and with it comes a sense of relief. Yet it is relief that must be weighed against the reality that this decision addresses the actions of just one officer and that the deaths of Black people at the hands of police continue. This hard truth was amplified tragically by the death of Daunte Wright, only 11 miles from the court building where this trial was taking place. This conviction is important, but the fight to eradicate the racial disparities in our justice system is far from over; our work to create a more just society remains unfinished.
Part of that work is to learn and listen across lines of difference and to build a community grounded in trust and mutual respect. Part of that work is to trace the roots of inequality and its pernicious effects and to equip our students with the understanding and insight needed to create a better world. Fundamental to it all is our institutional commitment to truth and to advancing knowledge and understanding.
We saw some truth today. Now is the time to lean into our mission, with resolve and with urgency. Let this moment embolden us all to keep pushing for truth and for the change we need to close the gap between the society we are today and the one we aspire to be. That change is only beginning.
Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences