By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
This week, the trial for Derek Chauvin begins and many in the Black community are holding their breath.
It is so common for police officers who shoot and kill Black people to escape being held accountable that whenever an officer is indicted and put on trial, we as Black people take a collective breath of relief.
But the breath is incomplete. We inhale hope. Justice has been so elusive for us as a people, that the breaths of hope are welcomed.
But it is the exhaling that is a problem. Black people are seldom able to let out a sigh, a breath, of relief because justice has been served. Even if officers are indicted, juries too frequently vote to acquit them. Families weep and gasp because they must deal with not only the murder of their loved one, but also with the painful reality that the person who has committed the murder has literally gotten away with it.
It is a pain like no other.
According to a recent report on NPR, “since 2015, police officers have fatally shot at least 135 unarmed Black men and women nationwide, an NPR investigation has found. NPR reviewed police, court and other records to examine the details of the cases. At least 75% of the officers were White.”
Even as armed Whites who have committed murders are frequently “taken down” alive by officers, Black people, who are frequently unarmed and have committed far lesser offenses, are gunned down and because of qualified immunity, the officers walk away.
People are protesting, as reported by The Washington Post. The death – the murder – of George Floyd was painful to watch, but the court will not care about what the people saw or that they are protesting. It will not matter. The defense will be that Floyd died not because of what the officer did, but because he might have been on drugs or had an underlying medical condition.
Nobody wants to even think about what it will be like if the jury acquits this officer. The fact that due to the disparity in the way Whites and Blacks are treated by law enforcement was painfully obvious in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection by White people is making the tensions that already exist all the worse.
This country’s policing system has been flawed prejudiced against Black people since the days of slavery, when Fugitive Slave Laws allowed White people to be deputized and to mete violence against any enslaved Black person who dared flee his or her enslavement.
And of course, the violence that was legally rendered to Black people by their overseers and members of the general society is a part of the legacy of this country.
We are holding our breath.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. Her latest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America is available at all booksellers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.