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Opinion: I Hope You’re Watching With Me

by Nicole Cortino

On March 29, the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin was not the only thing that began. 

The criminal justice system’s opportunity to demonstrate they can be trusted by the Black community started as well, according to Terrence Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, during a family conference outside of the courthouse before the opening statements of the trial. 

“They say, ‘Trust the system.’ They say we can trust the system. Well, this is your chance to show us we can trust you,” he said.

When I watched this on Monday morning, I thought about my dad. I thought about him as a Black road-construction worker, nearly run over every day by white people who spit racial slurs out their car windows.  

I thought about the thirteenth amendment. You know, the one that is known to abolish slavery but hasn’t because people of color are targeted through systemic racism and discrimination, restricting their right of opportunity. 

I hope you know.

I hope you know of George Floyd, the man whose life was taken away by the knee of Chauvin.

I hope you know this means this is not Floyd’s trial. This is Chauvin’s trial. Chauvin’s actions are under investigation, not Floyd’s.

I hope you know he was a father to 6year-old Gianna Floyd and that he was a provider for her and her mother, Roxie Washington.

I hope you know he did not deserve to die.

What I didn’t know, but soon learned from prosecutor Jerry Blackwell is (1) the only reason Floyd was detained was because of a counterfeit $20 bill, (2) two other cops were on top of Floyd’s body behind the police car while Chauvin remained on his neck, and (3) Floyd’s pulse was checked multiple times, even by a paramedic, before Chauvin finally got off Floyd. 

Chauvin’s defense attorney, Erik Nelson, can say all the declarative sentences he wants. 

Go ahead, Nelson, tell the jury to “apply reason and common sense.” 

Tell the jury Chauvin was a police officer for 19 years. Keep telling America these things and America will use their common sense and reasoning to confidently know Floyd died under your defenses’ hands, who should have known (due to 19 years of working as a police officerthat a policeman’s duty is to care for a person when that person is in custody.

Does pressing into a person’s neck with your knee, leaning all your weight on their airway show protection or any care at all for their life? 

Before we answer this question, let’s go back to 2015, when a 21-year-old white boy, Dylann Roof, who committed mass murder at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, enjoyed Burger King that the police bought and provided for him on the way to the police station.

I ask, “Is murder a policeman’s job?” No.

Also, no—I do not think that if a person is a police officer they are always looking to have blood on their hands.  

But, the system is corrupted. I would say “insanely” or “outrageously” corrupted, but there’s no need for that. It’s clear that this has been a problem from the beginning of America’s time.

I hope you know that, too.

If you don’t, my advice is do the thing we all love to do: watch Netflix.  

Watch “Amend: The Fight for America,” which Will Smith hosts, illustrating the history of America in relevance to the fourteenth amendment.

Or “13TH,” which focuses on how slavery is not abolished, and rather justified through incarceration.  

Or “Time: The Kalief Browder Story,” which shares the story of Browder, who was wrongly convicted at age 16, incarcerated for many years, and committed suicide after release due to the traumatic experiences he endured in prison.

Out of everything, however, I hope you watch the trial of Derek Chauvin. Then, if you’ve educated yourself, you will see how it all connects.

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