After a trial that was deemed historic, several leaders of Westminster College issued statements reminding the community that work for racial justice is not over — rather, this is only a short moment in a longer struggle.
This comes in response to the guilty verdicts of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter of George Floyd. The murder of Floyd in May 2020 sparked international outrage and protests, spurring the largest civil rights movement in decades.
“It really is just a moment,” President Beth Dobkin said in a statement sent to the college. “I understand the significance of this trial and ongoing trauma created by the replaying of George Floyd’s murder. […] Although the power of the video may seem to have suggested an obvious conviction of Chauvin, I knew better. Videos seen in the context of a courtroom narrative are often interpreted very differently there than when they are viewed in news reports or in social media, no matter how heinous the images are or clear cut the crime seems to be. ”
After the verdicts were announced, thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand justice for other Black Americans who have lost their lives at the hands of police officers. This trial was not an act of justice, many said on social media, but rather accountability.
Protesters pointed to the deaths of two other people of color during the course of Chauvin’s trial — 20-year-old Daunte Wright and 13-year-old Adam Toledo — as evidence that Floyd’s death was not a unique instance.
About 20 minutes before the verdicts were announced, another protester — a teenage girl in Ohio whom Franklin County Children’s Services identified as 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, according to the Columbus Dispatch — was shot and killed by police.
“These recent tragedies exacerbate the historical traumas that communities of color continue to experience in their interactions with law enforcement and the criminal justice system in the U.S.,” said Dr. Tamara Stevenson, chief diversity officer at Westminster, said in a statement.
In their separate statements, both Dobkin and Stevenson emphasized the need for continued work toward becoming an anti-racist institution — a commitment the college made in the Fall 2020 semester.
“Atrocious acts of violence based on group membership happen so frequently that we risk becoming numb to them and relying on regular condemnation by senior leaders to feel like we have addressed deep social problems,” Dobkin said. “We all, together, must do more, and provide both the tools and support necessary for those who continue to bear the burdens of racism, and the learning opportunities and measures of accountability for those of us who contribute, often unknowingly, to the conditions that enable racism to flourish.”