Also.Also.Also: Derek Chauvin Found Guilty of Murdering George Floyd, Our Work Is Still Not Done

I am writing you this intro within literal minutes of hearing that Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of all three counts (2nd degree unintentional murder, 3rd degree murder and 2nd degree manslaughter) in the murder of George Floyd. It’s been only one day after the defense and the prosecution gave their closing arguments in the trial. I have no problems telling you that I’m shaking, literally shaking, from head to toe. Never, not once, did I even for a second let myself believe that this would happen. Even though it was on tape. Even though so many people spent months protesting. Even though. Even though. Even though.

Not once. Not ever.

I need to drink a cold glass of water. To be honest, I need a long cry. But if I can use my little perch, just for a second, to say one thing, please let it be this: If you’re reading this, if you’re feeling relief course through your body, and even more so if you are white and have had the privilege to spend the last month not living with a creeping dread and tension that slept next to you in bed at night and sat next to you during the day — don’t let Derek Chauvin be the “one bad apple” in the bunch. The entire system is corrupt. It’s broken. One ruling doesn’t change that. The smallest, tiniest slice of justice doesn’t change that.

This type of writing is always hard; I have nothing new to say. Everything that could be said about how Black people are murdered in this country, well fuck it, it’s been said by now. I am grateful to God that George Floyd’s family had their day in court. I also know that tonight they will go to bed and this verdict doesn’t bring the man that they loved back. I know that it doesn’t bring back the loved ones of every single Black person who’s faced police violence. It’s not going to make me any less scared about the day my seven-year-old nephew (born the very same day that George Zimmerman was acquitted) grows up and learns how to drive.

I wish I could tell you I’m the kind of person who wishes Derek Chauvin reconciliation in his days to come. That I was evolved  to a higher level. I’m sure it’s what a lot of people would say in my position (even if they didn’t quite mean it). But — I’m not built that way.

So instead I’ll say this: Let today be a start. Tonight may we find rest. Tomorrow may we go back to work and also the day after that. Let us make it our duty that Derek Chauvin is not the only one.

First: Derek Chauvin is found guilty of murdering George Floyd and here’s how his sentencing could unfold.

“Just seven hours before prosecutors opened their case against Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, a Chicago officer chased down a 13-year-old boy in a West Side alley and fatally shot him as he turned with his hands up.

One day later, at a hotel in Jacksonville, Fla., officers fatally shot a 32-year-old man, who, the police say, grabbed one of their Tasers. The day after that, as an eyewitness to Mr. Floyd’s death broke down in a Minneapolis courtroom while recounting what he saw, a 40-year-old mentally ill man who said he was being harassed by voices was killed in Claremont, N.H., in a shootout with the state police.

On every day that followed, all the way through the close of testimony, another person was killed by the police somewhere in the United States.”

Throughout Trial Over George Floyd’s Death, Killings by Police Mount

“Defense lawyers know that the law does not require Chauvin to behave like a human being; it only requires him to behave like a cop. It doesn’t hold cops to an objective standard of behavior. Instead, the law allows an individual cop’s own frailties—their fears, their racist misconceptions, and even their own hysteria—to define the scope of acceptable cop behavior. “

How the Supreme Court Gave Cops a License to Kill

“For Black and brown people, this is the terror of American policing. When we do not comply, we die like Daunte Wright did. When we do comply, we die like Adam Toledo did.”

Compliance Will Not Save Me

“Killing people is not usually a problem for American police, who on average kill roughly 1,000 civilians a year, including fatally shooting more than 400 unarmed people total since 2015, according to the Washington Post. Thus, the rebuke of Chauvin by his fellow officers should not be interpreted as institutional opposition to needless death. It is a preservationist response to the questions of legitimacy that arise when an officer gets caught on camera torturing a handcuffed man to death, sparking some of the largest protests in U.S. history. These questions are compounded by growing public recognition that this behavior is not unusual. In the years since Eric Garner was video-recorded being choked to death by a police officer in Staten Island in 2014, the sentiment that police violence is a major problem in the U.S. has come to be shared by roughly half of American adults, while about two-thirds feel that the criminal-legal system treats police too leniently. Departments nationwide, and the Minneapolis Police Department in particular, face unprecedented threats to their primacy and local esteem in the form of budget cuts and even proposals to disband them.

This is not a standard — or system — that has to be preserved, regardless of Tuesday’s guilty verdicts. It is a license for the police to keep doing what Americans are in the streets protesting them for doing, and insisting it is nonnegotiable under the auspices of public safety. Chauvin’s former colleagues may have come out in force to rebuke him during his trial. But the result was less justice than an unusually strident effort toward self-preservation. And it probably worked.”

This Is Not Justice. It’s Self-Preservation.

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Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 700 articles for us.


  1. Thank you Carmen, for putting this together and for sharing your own reflections. I’ll be holding those last lines with me “Let today be a start. Tonight may we find rest. Tomorrow may we go back to work and also the day after that. Let us make it our duty that Derek Chauvin is not the only one.”

  2. i know it’s a lack of knowledge on my, and that it’s legal distinction, but i cannot understand how the utter disregard for a human life meets the standard for ‘unintentional’. while it is a relief that he was wrong in assuming he did not have to care – apart historical precedent, that likely won’t the lesson policing takes.

    hope everybody is ok, especially you Carmen.

  3. I held off commenting when I first read this article because I was afraid of saying not enough, or too much, or making anyone cringe, but really I just want to say that I care about you Carmen, and I care about your nephew, and your family, and I care about people of color, and breathing while black should never have to be a crime. It’s just so much to finally see Chauvan held accountable, handcuffed, his hands behind his back. And yeah, this won’t bring back George Floyd. His daughter will never get to hug her father again. There will still be more tears shed and there is so much that still needs to be done, but at least something has been done. And that is a gift. We love you Carmen. Thank you for always making us cry and smile and reflect. Thank you to all the people who carried these burdens on their back. FINALLY the weight can be pushed back on someone else.

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