On Tuesday afternoon, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd. The trial itself was momentous — and its outcome even more so — for doing what so many similar cases in the past have failed to do: hold accountable the excessive and fatal force used by police against innocent Black Americans.
After the tension of waiting for the verdict, hearing that Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts felt like a breath of relief. To many Americans, it’s tempting to feel like the protests and movement that took place after Floyd’s death worked, and now the case has been closed and justice has been served.
However, the work of the Black Lives Matter movement and its calls for social reform did not revolve around a single case of police brutality. The fight against systemic racism is still ongoing, as it has been since our country’s creation. While Chauvin’s indictment can be indicative of a step forward, it is only one step in a very long journey.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would ban potentially lethal police techniques (like chokeholds and carotid holds) at the federal level. It would also prohibit racial, religious and discriminatory profiling by police, ban no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, require body and dashboard cameras, create a national police misconduct registry, limit police militarization and invest in community programs for equitable policies.
While the legislation promises big changes that would at least improve the state of police in America, it remains stuck in the Senate, despite being passed twice by the House of Representatives. The systems in power that need to be held accountable continue to stall when it comes to real police reform. When the representatives meant to serve the people are unable to make meaningful changes when the country calls for it, indicates a problem that goes much deeper than the individual.
Many Americans are already aware of how deeply racism is rooted in our country, in part due to the rallying cries of the Black Lives Matter movement to abolish the current police system and fight for sweeping change. It’s important not to lose sight of that end goal in light of one small victory.
It’s also important to remember that George Floyd did not choose to be a martyr for a movement. He did not decide to sacrifice his life for the greater cause. George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin and by an unjust system. And, while Chauvin has been held accountable by our court system, it is essential that the system faces real changes, as well.