Opinion by NBCLX Senior Editor Eric Hinton
It was a sadly powerful moment in American history. A Minnesota panel of six white and six Black or multi-racial jurors told us Tuesday that the life of a Black man, George Floyd, mattered. And more importantly, they told us his manner of death mattered, even coming under the knee of a white police officer.
Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin, 45, could spend the next several decades in jail.
Over the three weeks of the trial, as a Black man and a Black father I did not believe Chauvin would be found guilty of murder. Maybe it was a defensive mechanism or a sense of history on how these things generally unfold. But I told every friend and family member who would listen I believed Chauvin would get a pass on both murder charges and be found guilty only of manslaughter.
As I watched the verdict come in Tuesday I resisted the temptation to rewind the picture to make sure I was actually hearing correctly. Guilty? On all counts? Could that be right?
It was. But still there are no victory laps here. George Floyd remains dead and this verdict won't bring him back to his daughter, his brothers, or his loved ones. But I pray it gives his family some sense of peace. And I hope for just one evening, Black men will feel their lives matter, and there will be accountability for our unjust, unprovoked deaths.
My perspective on policing has always been a unique one. My father was a police officer — a beat cop working in Brooklyn, N.Y., during the height of the crack pandemic in the late 80s. So I didn't grow up with the animosity toward the police that many of my friends did. When I rode in the back of a police car it was because my father was giving me a ride home.
But that lack of animosity turned to fear as I grew older and fathered children. My son Christopher grew to a height of over 6 feet tall at the age of 14. Despite his still childlike demeanor, anyone walking up at him from a distance would easily mistake him for a grown man. When he left my field of vision it was never random street violence that I worried about, but a random encounter with the police. We had "The Talk" early and often, to the point where his eyes now roll back in his head when I bring up the topic. But I do bring it up, time and again, because I remain afraid for his life. I fear for his life every day.
In the aftermath of Floyd’s death, demonstrations and scattered violence broke out in Minneapolis, around the country and beyond. Tonight those demonstrations will be replaced by relieved, celebratory crowds. But lest we forget, Floyd was but one of countless Black Americans who have lost their lives at the hands of police. The families of Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Daunte Wright and too many others may never know the closure that George Floyd's loved ones received today.
Rest in Peace George Floyd.