Commentary: Chauvin case verdict is just a start

©Tribune News Service

My wife and I hugged when the verdict came down. We felt, as did many people, a blend of relief and vindication.

The conviction of Derek Chauvin on all three charges in the death of George Floyd was a measure of justice, but it was not the whole verse, and certainly not the whole song.

Look what it took for Chauvin to be found “guilty.”

It took the cellphone video of Darnella Frazier and other eyewitness testimony.

It took the efforts of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who put together the legal team that prosecuted the former Minneapolis police officer.

It took the courage and perseverance of the Floyd family.

It took the massive, spontaneous outpouring of protests not just in Minneapolis, but all over the country and around the world.

And it took the leadership of the Black Lives Matter movement to show white Americans, over and over again, that the murder of George Floyd was no anomaly in the United States.

Otherwise, this case would never have ended in a conviction. With no video and no eyewitnesses, we wouldn’t even know George Floyd’s name today.

The culpable police would have covered up his murder, like so many more that have come before it. Let’s remember, here’s how the Minneapolis Police Department first described what happened to George Floyd:

“He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”

Such grotesque lies, blatant distortions and crude cover-ups are commonplace in police reports across the United States.

For the Floyd family, I hope the verdict brings some semblance of comfort.

For the United States, I hope it brings neither self-congratulation nor complacency, but the urgent recognition that we’ve got huge problems on our hands — namely, systemic racism and how police operate in this country.

This case was about so much more than George Floyd and Derek Chauvin.

As if we needed any reminders, the police killings of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo in the days leading up to the verdict are staring us in the face today.

How many more victims of police brutality do we have to mourn for change to happen?

The Movement for Black Lives issued a statement after the verdict, sending love to Floyd’s family and thanking “the millions of people who have acted to defend Black life in the past 11 months since George was murdered.”

The statement went on to say that “our communities need and demand more than a guilty verdict delivered through an unjust and racist system. We require real accountability for police and real safety for our communities. ... The time is now to divest from deadly policing and invest in a vision of public safety that protects us all.”

It’s going to take a whole lot of work — by lawyers, legislators, journalists, activists, and any American with a heart — to tackle the problem of racist policing and systemic racism in our country.

Only then will we be able to sing the whole song of justice, measure by measure and verse by verse.