A Pyrrhic Slice of Accountability

*Content warning*: This post will mention instances of police brutality and murdering of Black people. This may trigger specific lived experiences and generational malaise for Black people across the diaspora. My content warning is to specifically center Black folks and community trauma so that we are not bombarded once again with this information, without warning. My immediate reflections and gut reactions on the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, a former police officer who was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man.

Pyrrhic (pirik): adjective; (of a victory) won at too great a cost to have been worthwhile for the victor.

Accountability is not justice to me.

Court verdicts are, mayhaps, a way to hold an individual accountable. But they don’t protect the victims. They don’t bring back the dead. Justice is transformation. Repairs and dedicated actions that build a new world.

But even verdicts are only related to a specific person. How can you hold a murderous society, made up of many systems that oppress Black people accountable? Shouldn’t accountability lead to something bigger, like community restoration? Or anything survivor focused.

Does accountability provide a sense of wholeness and emotional closure for the family of George Floyd, after racism and modern day lynchings denied a young girl her father? Does accountability make it worthwhile for Darnella Frazier, a Black teenager who had an abundance of mental strength to record the killing, despite the trauma she was witnessing?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I did not feel a sense of relief after Derek Chauvin was found guilty of 2nd degree murder, 3rd degree murder, and 2nd degree manslaughter. There was no exhaling because a guilty verdict may also result in more police violence as retaliation. The police are an extension of white supremacy culture, of abusers, and when boundaries are set against abusers, they escalate. How many times have I been victim to and witness of police brutality against the Black community. It’s obvious that white supremacy culture is still working, with the evolution of slave patrols, protectors of white folks concerned about their property. Instead of relief, I felt anxious fear, knowing that I and my sisthren and brothren were targets and some would be out for blood.

Not just with police shootings. Were these mass shootings some sort of retaliation for a white man being on trial? Was this a way for white supremacists to attack the country after their attempted coup on January 6, 2021? Not exactly a coordinated intertwining, but each influenced by the others. They all come from a place of white male rage over their ideology “losing.”

It’s difficult, damn near impossible to think this verdict will lead to ideological shifts or any sort of policy change when minutes later I hear that George Floyd was a sacrifice for the better tomorrow. Murder does not work that way. How vile to think it will. He was a man, who was denied humanity because of the color of his skin. We did not sacrifice him. George did not sacrifice his life, he was executed by a cop. But people are still considering this murder –> protest –> outrage –> numbness some sort of ritual that ultimately upholds the status quo. Even if it was a poor choice of words, it still shows how our unintentional Black martyrdom will always be part of the US’s history, present, and future.

People that make up white, colonial institutions keep asking Black folks to sacrifice their lives for some sort of white American moral awakening that never happens.

Maybe Derek Chauvin was the sacrifice. To keep up this illusion that it is an individual that is the problem, instead of the institution. Maybe the police saw him as necessary payment to ultimately maintain the status quo. He’s going to prison, but would he have had that same opportunity to do what he did if not for the system that hired him, kept him, and hired the same officers around him who did not step in? The institution of policing will sacrifice a few to gain control of the narrative again- it’s a few bad apples that got thrown away, nothing more.

Maybe it was a sacrifice to somewhat keep the peace, to stop the protests against police. If the outcome had been different, I’d be watching another Rodney King episode playing out in real time.

Does the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act further accountability to actually lead to justice? It still:

  • provides more money to police
  • leans on reformists strategies (proven ineffective)
  • relies on law enforcement to fix policing

When have the oppressors fixed the other oppressors? Dismantled systems they benefit from? But I’m expected to have faith this will lead to justice. Would George’s life have been saved with the provisions of this bill? With more cameras, more training, more money for policing? It sounds like some police departments have already been doing this, and their foots are still on our necks.

How many more Black people must turn into a spectacle of funded violence before we can imagine and create community care that values Black life and safety?

Even with this trial and verdict, there are so many examples of how Black lives are not valued. During the trial, Daunte Wright was murdered only miles away. Right before the reading of the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, Makiyah Bryant, a 15 year old teenage child, in Columbus, Ohio called the police for help and was murdered. How many systems of care and support must fail to exist for a child to ask for help and that be a death sentence? Really- when and for how long did they care about us?

White supremacy will never kill my spirit. I still feel sick and tired of this bullshit, I still wonder if George Floyd’s family feels some sort of closure and calm knowing that a murderer will be imprisoned. But I want freedom. Even if I can’t see it in this lifetime, I remain a cultural archivist and storyteller so that generations after me will have a sweet bite of freedom. They deserve being able to exist outside of white dominant culture. They deserve liberation.

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