This is only the beginning

George Floyd memorial mural outside CUP Foods.

Originally published Apr. 22, 2021

Yesterday, we witnessed a glimmer of accountability in our criminal justice system.

Like so many others, I was relieved that George Floyd, his family, and his loved ones will get the justice they so richly deserve. Unfortunately, the relief I felt was short-lived. Right around the same time as the verdict was being read in Minneapolis, a police officer shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio within 10 seconds of arriving on the scene. This latest example of law enforcement’s use of deadly force in situations involving Black people is a stark reminder that even though justice seems to have prevailed for George Floyd, our work is far from being done.

It is the responsibility of regular citizens like you and I to hold our elected officials and law enforcement accountable for the policies and actions that result in our current, violently inequitable policing environment. Much of the Chauvin murder case revolved around then 17-year-old Darnella Frazier’s video. Without that vivid piece of evidence that has been watched by millions around the globe, I suspect that the outcome would have been very different indeed.

In order to truly make headway on solving the deep inequities that plague our criminal justice system, we have to first acknowledge as a society that they exist. As many breathed a sigh of relief after the verdict was read, others doubled down, claiming that the jury only came to their decision out of fear of reprisals from an angry mob. This disturbing refusal to acknowledge the inequity experienced by Black people in this country is more than just a difference of opinion; it is a willful attempt to rewrite America’s past so as to not have to admit culpability in America’s present.

Law enforcement’s willingness to use deadly force against Black people is so ubiquitous that every Black parent I know has had a version of “the talk” with their children, myself included. As a parent of two young men of color, I have had several age-appropriate iterations of “the talk” with my sons, detailing exactly how to behave during an encounter with law enforcement to better their chances of surviving the interaction. Behind “the talk” lies the simple, unvarnished truth that even though Black Americans account for less than 13 percent of the population in the U.S., we are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans. That fact coexists with the fact that the murder conviction rate of a police officer is exceedingly rare: one in 2,000. There have only been seven murder convictions for fatal shootings committed by police officers since 2005.

Yesterday, after the verdict was announced, I saw that the phrase “THANK YOU GOD” was trending on Twitter and, while I do not discourage others from expressing the same relief I and others were feeling, I do think it is telling that so many people recognized that it takes an act of God for Black folks to get justice in this country.

I can only hope that Chauvin’s guilty verdict signals the dawning of a new era of law enforcement accountability around the country. This verdict made it clear that a police officer who murders a member of our society can be charged and convicted of that crime. My hope is that this idea makes an impression on us and that it continues to linger in our society, in our justice system. Chauvin is where we start. The whole system is next.

Kyriell Noon, Hamilton Families CEO

Let’s Move Forward Together

Read Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Watch the documentaries 13th and When They See Us.

Exercise your civic responsibility and apply to be on a San Francisco City Board, Commission, or Task Force.

Build a more equitable and just society by supporting the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area who help to dismantle systems of oppression and racism.

Help reimagine public safety with the Anti Police-Terror Project (fiscally sponsored by Affect Real Change, based in Oakland).

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Kyriell Noon

Kyriell Noon

CEO @HamFamSF. #EndFamilyHomelessness in the #SFBayArea. Join us! hamiltonfamilies.org