This week, closing arguments have been made, and the jury began deliberations in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin. It has been a year since the death of George Floyd was captured on video and widely shared on social media. For many in this country, Floyd’s death brought attention to how some police officers use their authority very differently depending upon the color of your skin.
If I get pulled over for a traffic violation, it’s a nuisance and a fine. If a black person gets pulled over, particularly in certain neighborhoods, there is a much higher likelihood that the episode can end in violence or death. Police officers often work in dangerous situations, and they need the tools and community support to do their job of enforcing the law. At the same time, there needs to be checks and balances in place and a system of accountability that protects the lives of the public that officers pledge to preserve and protect.
I remember well the outrage and anger that followed after the Rodney King trial in 1991. Los Angeles erupted in violence when the verdict was announced that the L.A.P.D officers on trial for beating King were acquitted even though the beating had been captured on videotape. Fifty people died in the ensuing violence in Los Angeles. With the current tension in this country, the violence and bloodshed could be much worse.
The jurors in the Chauvin case carry an enormous burden on their shoulders. I am praying that they consider the evidence fairly and do their duty as an impartial jury. I also am praying that no matter what they decide, we as a nation can find ways to hear the widespread anger and the cries for justice that go deeper than just this particular case. We need to make some real changes in the criminal justice system and in policing. We also need to find ways to dial back the ways that racism continues to wreak havoc on the social fabric of this country.
There are no easy answers, but we all must work to make a better and more just world for ourselves and for the generations that come after us. This requires that we hear the pain and recognize the anger that is present and then make the decision to do something about it. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Steve Larsen