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Ruben Navarrettte: Chauvin verdict still not cause for joy

Ruben Navarrettte: Chauvin verdict still not cause for joy

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Ruben Navarrette Jr.

It's been more than a week since ex-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd, and there is something about the outcome that still doesn't sit right with me.

It isn't the verdict. The disgraced former cop is a callous bully who got what he had coming. In 9 minutes, Chauvin went from protector to predator. In doing so, he set back community-cop relations a quarter century and unleashed a wave of violence in dozens of U.S. cities resulting in millions of dollars in damages.

It isn't the politics. I find it amusing that conservatives are in a quandary. Many of them are concerned that the jury's decision to find Chauvin guilty of all charges, including second-degree unintentional murder, was based on fear that an acquittal would prompt social unrest. How can they demand accountability -- in other instances and from other people -- if they don't accept it in this case?

It isn't the fact that many people around the country reveled in public demonstrations. Given that Chauvin could now face at least 20 years of incarceration, and that ex-police officers don't usually live long in prison, the verdict could have been supported without being celebrated.

It isn't even the meddling by a member of Congress. We could have done without the sideshow of Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., telling protesters -- ahead of the verdict -- to "stay on the street" and "get more confrontational." Judge Peter Cahill condemned the remarks, and Waters shot back that Cahill was likely "angry" and "frustrated" by the extensive publicity generated by the trial.

No, what really troubles me is that -- in a criminal justice system made up of police, prosecutors, and judges that has undeniably yielded countless "losses" for Black Americans -- Chauvin's guilty verdict is being treated by some as a "win."

I understand that instinct. The losses have been profound, the miscarriages of justice countless. And you'd have to be blind, or in deep denial, to not see that there is a schism between police and Black men. Some might even call it a war.

Recently, the Black news site, NewsOne, counted the Black men and boys killed by police over the last decade. It stopped counting when the figure reached 109. There are times when it seems like there is a shooting every week.

When police officers fire their weapon, they are no doubt coached to say they were afraid for their lives. It's called the "fear defense." That claim doesn't hold water in cases like that of Andrew Brown Jr., a father of 10 who was recently killed by police in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Brown was shot five times, including once in the back of the head, as he attempted to flee officers who were trying to serve an arrest warrant.

Still, a guilty verdict in a criminal case ought to be about only two things: the facts and the law. It shouldn't be about wins and losses.

Nor should it be about racial pride or identity politics. Those things have no place in a courtroom, or outside one. Yet, I'm afraid we're headed there as well.

The day after the Chauvin verdict, as crowds in Minneapolis erupted into euphoria, an NPR reporter interviewed an African American woman who was waving a Black Lives Matter flag, asking her why she was celebrating the verdict.

"I have four boys, and I'm scared every day because you don't know what's going to happen," the woman said. "But today, I see hope. Because now justice has been served for one man. There is still tons of names. There is still tons of justice that needs to be had. But today was a start. And I am glad to witness this day, and to hold my flag. And I am proud to be Black today."

There is much to unpack here. None of it very good.

For one thing, why would anyone look for, let alone find, pride in the criminal trial of another human being? Imagine how disgusted we'd be if a White person said that the conviction of a Black defendant made him "proud to be White." Fair-minded people should come down just as hard when the colors are reversed.

This is no time for chalking up racial victories. This is a moment for reflection and reconciliation. Our nation is hurting, and we need healing.

Ruben Navarrette writes for the Washington Post.



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