By Daryl Moore
Special to the AFRO
On Memorial Day 2020, 46-year-old George Floyd died after 45-year-old former police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Floyd’s death sparked protests in Minneapolis (where he moved three years earlier) and around the world. On April 20, Chauvin was found guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the murder of Floyd.
While the tragedy prompted calls for police reform and soul-searching on issues of racial injustice, none of this may have happened had it not been recorded by heroic 17-year-old, Darnella Frazier. As the world still awaits Chauvin’s sentencing, reactions to the conviction range from muted celebration for the guilty verdict to outright disgust that this type of disregard for human life even happened at all.
The AFRO spoke to Mike Muse, who formerly served as a member of President Barack Obama’s National Finance Committee and is now a political and policy expert using his public platform as a change agent, about the troubling situation.
AFRO: Why was this particular trial so crucial?
MIKE MUSE: Police have been physically abusing and murdering Black Americans at far higher rates than White Americans for years and years and years. George Floyd didn’t just “die.” He was clearly murdered by a law enforcement officer. Anyone with eyes and an iota of common sense could see that. But there have been other obvious murders of Black people by police, and those cops have either not been charged, found “not guilty” and/or given light sentences. Justice was served in this case, but in far too many other cases, it wasn’t. Floyd’s murder sparked an international movement to fix policing and systemic racism, yet unfortunately, a lot of work is left to be done. During the trial itself, Minneapolis police shot Daunte Wright, just miles away from the courthouse. A few states away, Chicago police killed a 13-year-old-boy who had his hands in the air. Since testimony began in the Chauvin case, according to the New York Times, at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, with Black and Latino people representing more than half of the dead.
AFRO: Where do we go from here as far as police reform?
MIKE MUSE: Cities and states need to think about, and change, what types of policing we want. Public safety may look different across America but it has to stop looking like this. This isn’t working.
AFRO: How do you think the verdict could affect Baltimore specifically?
MIKE MUSE: This verdict came down nearly six years to the day that Freddy Gray died from injuries while in police custody. All of the officers charged in Gray’s death were acquitted or had charges dropped. Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and other local officials praised the Chauvin trial verdict, but we need to see action from these officials, not hear words. After Floyd’s death, Maryland lawmakers passed a package of police reforms, but the Governor, Larry Hogan, vetoed some of those bills. Thankfully, his vetoes were overridden by the legislature. That’s why voting matters so much.
AFRO: How does this change being Black in America?
MIKE MUSE: More people “get it.” I see more real, concrete opportunities to root out systemic racism – things like scholarships and fellowships in areas where Blacks are historically underrepresented, in addition to voting. But did the trial change anything about being Black in America? No.
AFRO: What can Black people do to maximize this moment?
MIKE MUSE: Let’s continue to draw attention to upcoming trials and incidents where officers have yet to be charged. Let’s continue protesting peacefully. Let’s keep talking about systemic racism and police abuse on social media and in private conversations. We can’t let words like “systemic racism” and “police reform” disappear from the national conversation.
AFRO: What effects do you think the community activism such as protests, rallies, social media attention, etc., had on the situation?
MIKE MUSE: A lot. Dozens if not hundreds of Black Americans have been killed by police. Often, those police weren’t even charged, much less convicted of any crimes. Remember Eric Garner, Stephon Clark, Tamir Rice and countless others? Americans weren’t loud enough protesting those cases.
For more information on Mike Muse, check out LawChamps whose mission is to coordinate superior legal representation for African Americans. Follow Muse on social media @IAmMikeMuse.