Justice — But Still No Peace: Chauvin’s Guilt and White Shame

Tuesday, April 20th

The accelerated verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin caught me completely by surprise. I was not anticipating the jury being able to reach a decision until Thursday morning, or perhaps even Friday afternoon. The speed of their deliberations is an indication, however, of how convincing the evidence was of Floyd’s impetuous execution under the guise of police authority.

The more tantalizing question at this point is how long Chauvin’s sentence will be, and what is the likelihood that he will be out of prison before 2040? The penalty phase of his trial will begin in eight weeks, and the most important thing to keep in mind is not how long he will serve, but how much can we change the current prodigious racism in our country by the time he gets out of prison?

All of us who are white need to look in the mirror of our complicity with Floyd’s murder. For too long we have tolerated a system in which some police officers act with self-entitled impunity because they feel shielded by police immunity. This cannot be permitted to continue without a challenge. I have serious doubts that such a challenge will be undertaken, for how can it start until we who look like Derek Chauvin begin to acknowledge the ways in which we ourselves resemble Derek Chauvin in more than just skin color.

I feel sorry for Derek Chauvin. Really, Bill? Yes, I do. All too many white people, including myself, are willing to demonize him. Are we ourselves not guilty of micro-aggressions that differ little in scope and intent from the flickering taunts of hierarchical privilege that have echoed in Chauvin’s mind for many years? How different were his life-long ideological reflexes from our own impositions of generalized images onto individual people of color? The system we claim to be revulsed by has survived, in fact, because I am more like Chauvin than I would care to admit. At some point, I must call myself to account for my own instances of shame in that regard. I was born in the segregated South. I was raised in the segregated South. The virus of racism took hold early.

So, yes, I feel sorry for him, that the disease ravaged his soul so thoroughly.and perniciously. Is he a scapegoat? Let’s not get carried away. He is a rogue police officer, guilty of a hideous crime, and he deserves a very substantial penalty; but until we who are white begin to penalize ourselves for the ways in which our own behavior and thoughts sustain the system that facilitated his crimes, then we deserve a degree of shame equal to his guilt.

— Written in less than hour — and unrevised.
7:00 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Slightly revised the nextmroning,, 5:30 a.m. – 5:38 a.m.

“We don’t celebrate a man going to jail. We rather George be alive.” — Rev. Al Sharpton

“True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day. … And it requires us to do the sometimes thankless, often difficult, but always necessary work of making the America we know more like the America we believe in.”
— Barack Obama

LINK TO “The Conversation”:

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“People don’t change. They only stand more revealed.” — Charles Olson

“Chauvin was the subject of at least 17 complaints during his career, according to police records.”

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