By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor
As I sit here watching the verdict (you know what verdict I’m talking about) and MSNBC’s coverage and commentary, I’m struck by Michael Steele’s comments. Steele, a conservative, Republican, black commentator – and former national chairman of the Republican Party – opened his comments by saying “when I heard the verdict, I fist pumped.”
I fist bumped also. Here in my home office, all by myself, I fist bumped. And I cried. And I turned on my Facebook page to see all the comments from others who had fist bumped and cried. My cousin in Charlotte thanked Jesus. A friend whom I knew when I lived in Minneapolis, one of my favorite places, spoke of tears.
And we wept! Justice finally.
Sometimes it feels as if it is the first time justice has been done. It’s not part of a pattern. It’s not a harbinger of things to come. It’s not retribution for all the times that justice has not prevailed. It’s just a little something.
But it feels so damn good. Finally!
Part of is relief also. Part of it is relief that had a not guilty verdict been rendered, the violence in so many places might have spiraled out of control – as I write this, it still might. But I’m momentarily relieved.
What was the difference? Why finally, in such a high-profile case, has a white officer been found guilty of murdering a Black man?
It was the face. Derek Chauvin’s face. We hadn’t seen that face before.
We have seen blurry images of Black people being attacked and shot – sometimes running away, sometimes the image obstructed by car doors, or police bodies over them flailing away. We rarely have seen the face close up of the victim at the time he meets his Maker.
But we have never seen the face of the perpetrator so intimately as we saw Darek Chauvin as he committed murder. And when we saw it, we didn’t see his panic. We didn’t see his anger. We didn’t see his fear of the crowd. We didn’t see disgust, or hate, or malice.
We saw casualness.
We saw a man with his hands in his pockets and a face that was so clearly unconcerned by his surroundings and so unconcerned by the life he was snuffing out. We saw a man who for nine minutes and 29 seconds told the world, this is not a big deal. This is not an important matter. This man whose neck I am kneeling on is of no concern to me or to anyone else.
Derek Chauvin so casually brought to an end the life of George Floyd, while keeping his hands in his pockets and a look on his face that revealed his total lack of concern for anything that mattered in terms of the life he had taken, a life he had sworn to protect and to serve. The life of George Floyd.
The prosecutor acknowledged as much in his closing argument. The defense, he argued, had failed to make the case that George Floyd died because his heart was too large. He died because Derek Chauvin’s heart was too small.
And we could all see it.