As the trial of former MPD Officer Derek Chauvin began with jury selection on March 8, 2021, Minnesota – and the world – leaped on to what felt like another bed of nails. The stakes were high and expectations low: The only Minnesota police officer convicted of an on-duty shooting is Mohamed Noor, a Somali officer – in other words, a Black man – who shot Justine Diamond, a white woman, in 2017.

Local communities waited with their breaths in their throats for the announcement of a verdict in the Chauvin trial: Would yet another white officer walk free after killing a person of color in our cities? If history offered any indication, many felt that the answer would be a resounding yes.

And yet, on April 20, the jury in the Chauvin trial returned with a guilty verdict on all three counts after only 10 hours of deliberation. While this battle felt like a victory, it opens the door to the question: Where do we go from here?

All of the individuals we interviewed for this episode of Trial & Tribulation offered a different take on this deliberately open-ended question. But they echoed each other on one important point: The path forward will be long and winding – and there is a lot of work to be done, work that will take a generation’s worth of commitment and fight.

READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE VIDEO

Duchess Harris, Professor of American Studies:

Black men are killed every day in America.

Nadine Graves, Attorney:

If there was accountability from the beginning, George Floyd would still be alive today.

Raj Sethuraju, Professor of Criminology:

We have to move forward knowing all of that past history.

James Densley, Professor of Criminology:

The police are racist because society’s racist.

Duchess Harris:

If you have power, are you going to share it?

Raj Sethuraju:

Stop being allies, be an accomplice.

Nadine Graves:

George Floyd came to Minnesota as if we were the promised land, but he left in a body bag. That should not be the story for us.

Kyeland Jackson, Reporter & Host:

Hey, y’all. The nation, maybe even the world breathed, a sigh of relief when Derek Chauvin was found guilty for murdering George Floyd. Many Minnesotans have put the trial behind them, but racism still kills people like us in different ways every day. So here’s the question: Where do we go from here?

Nadine Graves:

George Floyd came to Minnesota as if we were the promised land. like he was supposed to come here and have a better opportunity. But yet, he left in a body bag. That should not be the story for us.

Jeff Hayden, Former State Senator:

As devastating as it is, it’s a catalyst to really, change so in your face that you can’t avoid, that you can’t look away.

Nadine Graves:

And you can’t put this off on somebody else and think that, oh, somebody else is taking care of this, or they’re in the cities they’re handling us. No, you in outskirts Minnesota should care about this. You in wherever you are should care about what’s happening because God forbid you don’t want this happening to one of your loved ones. The moral of the story is how would you feel if this was your loved one?

Duchess Harris: 

I’m going to be an optimist and say that Minnesota wants to be better. You can’t be better until you know better. And you know, I think Minnesotans know better now.

Kyeland Jackson:

Even though plenty of Minnesotans know better, it will take a lot of work for the system to hold police officers accountable.

Nadine Graves: 

The other Minneapolis police officers, I would hope that they would take plea deals and not put us through another trial. I would hope that the governor would step in and turn Officer Potter’s case over to the attorney general like was done here with officer Chauvin. Those would be huge starts because it sends them a message that you are not untouchable, that you can be held accountable and will be held accountable.

James Densley:

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about defunding the police, for instance, as a mechanism to be able to fund the public services that we’ve essentially offset to the police. But the problem is public services have been defunded for 50 years. And the reason why the police are doing all the things they’re doing: policing mental health, policing schools, policing drug addiction, policing homelessness, is because we abdicated our responsibility for those things and stopped funding them from the offset. The police are the only organization that can’t say no. You call 9-1-1, they have to come. And so you don’t defund the police to fund the public services, you fund both. And so the solution is really, we need more public spending. But that is something that just doesn’t sit well with some populations and some decision makers when you’re asking for increased funding for public services. But that really is what we need here to get the types of solutions that are gonna make all our communities safer.

Kyeland Jackson:

Those types of solutions focus on restoring our communities instead of enforcing them. And it could make a world of difference.

Nadine Graves:

If we really care about our people and we care about our community members, we would want to stop putting in practices and policies that will continue to create the environment that we already say we don’t want.

Raj Sethuraju:

Stop the conversation about good apples and bad apples. Let’s start realizing that our systems are built and constructed in such a way that it tends to harm communities that have experienced that long haul, right? The long haul of enslavement, long haul of Jim Crow, long haul of mass incarceration, long haul of unemployment, disenfranchisement, and lack of wealth building opportunities. So if we do the work in a clear, value centered way, man I think we can go a long way. But we tend to want to fix, let’s give more training to police. I’m like, stop training your police, start engaging the community.

Nadine Graves:

Can we look into how misdemeanor traffic violations are are being addressed? You know, why is this a priority? Why is this a crime?

James Densley:

If somebody is getting pulled over in a traffic stop because they have expired tabs, are these really crimes that need a police response and especially a heavy handed one, or are these things that are just sort of civil infractions, or are they crimes of need?

Nadine Graves:

Make sure that one, yes, all first offenders get the opportunity to get access to restorative justice practices. I’m a product of second chances. If I’m not given an opportunity to show that I can be redeemable, then yeah, you’re just further setting me up to be in the system.

Duchess Harris:

A lot of Black people forget that we need to be well. And we’ve been socialized to think, you know, oh that’s selfish. And my thought is that, how are we demonizing self-preservation? We didn’t survive the Middle Passage without having some self-preservation. We should continue that.

Jeff Hayden:

Black people and people of color are pretty resilient in this country. If they weren’t, we’d probably wouldn’t be here knowing this country’s history. Black folks were brought here from Africa to go out and give free labor to build this country, right? And so we have to talk about that.

Nadine Graves:

I think if we actually grappled with the truth and addressed it and acknowledged it and made amends to that for the atrocities that have happened here, we would be a lot further. You may not have to talk about race anymore, ’cause we would have been dealt with it

Duchess Harris:

We need truth and reconciliation. It needs to be like South Africa. We need to have a public hearing. We need to have Black people come forward with testimony. We need white people to listen and we need a public apology.

James Densley:

What that apology or what that kind of truth process does is it acknowledges that the pain and the hurt is real. We have caused harm in the past.

Duchess Harris:

When someone is apologizing to you, you feel seen. And I’ve lived here 25 years before I felt seen.

Kyeland Jackson:

Now that they see us, they also see the troubles that we go through. And those problems don’t stop at policing. They’re riddled throughout the system.

James Densley:

We don’t just need a sort of a tweak around the edges here. We need a full-scale revolution in how we’re doing this type of work.

Nadine Graves:

We have to look at the whole system. I think in education, you see the pipeline from school to prison. Why are certain children automatically being deferred into juvenile detention centers and all of that instead of given restorative justice in the school?

Duchess Harris: 

Who is recruited to become police officers? What is the training of police officers? Will we change the requirement of where you live and where you police? Because if you live where you police, maybe you won’t police, maybe you will actually serve and protect. Who gets into law school? Who ends up becoming a public defender or a prosecutor? What are the salary disparities for public defenders? Who can become a judge? Who are our elected officials? What are the disparities around healthcare? Who has access to the COVID vaccine and who doesn’t and how are they getting that access? Who has been economically displaced because of COVID and how can we change that? And what is our housing situation? And I would consider all of that as just the opening paragraph to the policy memo of where do we go from here?

Jeff Hayden:

But we got our work cut out for us in our community to kind of level the playing field. And we have to be all in. It has to be the business community, the philanthropic community, communities themselves have to lead that and then government surely plays a huge role, probably the most significant role in that.

Kyeland Jackson:

And I hate to be bearer of bad news, but it’s going to take more than that to make change. Let’s put it this way. In medicine, you have to deal with the disease to get rid of its symptoms. In Minnesota, we have to deal with racism to get rid of its inequalities.

James Densley:

The police are racist because society’s racist. And so yes, you can tinker at the edges of policing, but you’ve got to take another step back and say, well how are we going to fix the bigger picture? Because the police are already operating within that same system. And so that’s where that harder work comes into it. The police are kind of, they’re both a symptom and a cause of the problem. And it’s recognizing that complexity, embracing it, is really where I think you’re going to get the biggest traction.

Duchess Harris:

There are volumes of texts that blame African-Americans for their peril, right? And so for all of that narrative, we need counter narrative. All communities have something to offer. And if you happen to be white and wealthy, that does not mean that you have all of the resources and all of the answers. If you have power, are you going to share it?

Jeff Hayden: 

If you are people who are in charge and you’re making the decisions and you have influence, giving up some of your power, you know what I mean, to empower the group that’s below you is gonna make you a much better, is gonna make this a much better place and that’s gonna be your legacy.

Duchess Harris:

What does the community need? What are you going to leave behind? How can the community make the institution better? Oh my goodness, what a concept, right? But it’s taken until the 21st century for people to realize that reciprocity is what this is about. This isn’t about a handout.

Raj Sethuraju:

When crime is up, you also see people’s trauma being up. There’s sort of this, I mean, where is crime spiking, especially the blue collar crimes are spiking in communities that has high levels of ACEs, right? Adverse childhood effects of trauma. If I know that, law enforcement is not gonna do anything to my trauma. In fact, it is going to add because I am in a persistent traumatic stress disorder not post-traumatic stress disorder. I can leave the place and get out. Here, a lot of our communities are in that space all the time. So if they’re there in all the time, instead of putting in law enforcement and making them comply, making them and enforcing the law, let me take them out of that element. Let me invest in this community and say, how many millions of dollars do I need to invest for housing, for parks, for jobs, for schools, for healthcare, for them to have a place where they can call home.

Kyeland Jackson:

Wherever we go from here, one thing seems for certain. George Floyd’s death will echo across generations.

James Densley:

I mean, I think about the death of George Floyd as being one of those landmark moments in people’s lives. People knew where they were when we landed on the moon. They knew where they were when JFK was assassinated. They knew where they were at 9-11. And I really genuinely feel like as a cultural touchpoint, George Floyd’s death is like that for this generation.

Nadine Graves: 

History will not be kind to those that didn’t do anything now. Our children see us. I also have a lot of faith in this generation. They are very different. They’re a little more buck. They have a little more edge to them. And they are very opinionated and will speak their mind and will use their voice. This generation sees us, it’s very clear to them, and they’re gonna continue to fight for justice for everybody.

James Densley:

It’s gonna take now that generation coming into the profession for the old guard to move out and for them to really start to make those changes.

Nadine Graves: 

This generation see us, it’s very clear to them, and they’re going to continue to fight for justice for everybody.

Jeff Hayden:

So I think it’s there, but I think it takes some time, and it’s going to take some pressure, and it’s going to take some courageous work out of all of us, no matter where we are in society to be able to kind of keep our eyes forward and to drive the kind of change we’re really looking for.

Nadine Graves:

We have a duty. If we want the world to know that this is a great place for everybody, then we need to make it a great place for everyone.

Kyeland Jackson:

Making this world a great place for everybody starts with anybody. Our struggles with the Coronavirus and the lessons of our ancestors has brought humanity back into the conversation. Now it’s up to us to carry that lesson forward. Be safe y’all, be well. And until next time, peace and love.

Special Thanks: James Densley, Nadine Graves, Duchess Harris, Jeff Hayden and Raj Sethuraju
Production Team: Jess Bellville, Kevin Dragseth, Danae Hudson, Kyeland Jackson

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This story is part of the digital storytelling project Racism Unveiled, which is funded by grants from the Otto Bremer Trust and HealthPartners.

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As jury selection began in the murder trial of former MPD officer Derek Chauvin in early March, Minnesotans – and others around the world – got an inside look at how implicit and explicit forms of bias work against people of color as prospective jury members. In the second episode of Trial & Tribulation: Racism & Justice in Minnesota, we talked to a variety of experts on how the jury system does – and does not – work for Black Minnesotans. 

With media outlets from all across the globe descending on Minneapolis during the trial of Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd, we wondered: How has the media perpetuated racism when covering communities of color? And how do Black media organizations handle reporting on community differently? 

The Chauvin trial has stirred up a tidal wave of trauma in Minnesota’s communities of color for whom racialized trauma is already a daily experience. So we talked to author and therapist Resmaa Menakem, who shares five ways that people can take care of themselves during the trial.