I wondered, when I woke up today, what kind of a statement I would be issuing this afternoon. I hoped it would not be one to soothe the raw emotions of a community deflated and enraged, yet again, by a not-guilty verdict. The decisions in the Chauvin trial today pose a different problem. In the context of the persistent over-policing that put George Floyd on the road, under a policeman's knee, it's impossible to celebrate today's guilty verdicts as anything more than the moment it was: when only the most egregious and public display of violence was sufficient to deliver a judgment in defense of a Black man's right to live.
So, to celebrate the apparent success of the justice system today seems callow, because the high waters of racial violence do not recede in any appreciable sense via one courtroom. It is rather (and perhaps) this: that we cannot allow justice to prevail only when the weight of evidence and public approbation tilt so overwhelmingly in the direction of someone like George Floyd. The exception, as they say, proves the rule—and that rule today remains no less stacked against black and brown people than it has been for centuries.
That being the case, we have, all of us, work to do. Race, wealth, and power in our society travel together far more than they should. It is our job at CCNY, and the job of colleges like us across the country to unbundle them; to break the association between a people's ethnicity, their wealth, and their power; to work to ensure that opportunity and achievement reflect the talent and drive more than the accident of a person's birth. Racism cannot, of course, be reduced to other forms of class prejudice and disempowerment. But the clearest path towards dismounting racism is an empowered population reflective of the whole people. And that is our work.
This afternoon could have felt so much worse. Let us reflect, with brief gratitude, on what might have been today, and then turn with resolve towards what should be in the future.