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McFeely: Derek Chauvin verdict brings hope

Former Minneapolis cop became first white police officer in state history to be convicted of killing a Black person. A Black life mattered, if you will.

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In this image from video, Derek Chauvin listens to the verdict being read Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in his trial in the death of George Floyd. Chauvin was found guilty on all charges by the jury in Hennepin County. (Forum News Service)
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Hope.

That's the feeling that comes after a huge exhale.

Hope, mostly, that white cops will stop killing Black people.

Hope, too, that if they do, then perhaps there will be a price to pay.

Hope that this isn't the end of the discussion about race and the criminal justice system, but only the beginning.

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And hope that we can begin to heal after a long, painful, stressful year.

A jury in Minneapolis found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three counts in the murder of George Floyd , the verdict read by Judge Peter Cahill an hour and a half after the announcement a verdict had been reached.

If there's been a more anxious 90 minutes in Minnesota history, please advise.

Chauvin was guilty of unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. Sentencing will come in two months.

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Derek Chauvin booking photo, April 20, 2021. (Photo courtesy Minnesota Department of Corrections)

Minneapolis residents celebrated outside the Hennepin County Government Center downtown where the trial was held and the verdict read. They celebrated, too, at the corner of 38th and Chicago, where Chauvin killed Floyd last May by kneeling on his neck for nearly 10 minutes.

The rest of the Twin Cities, Minnesota and the nation exhaled.

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"We're all so relieved," President Joe Biden told Floyd's family after the verdict was announced.

He spoke for a nation.

We can move forward. For once, the system decided the life of a Black person has more value than the career of a white law enforcement officer.

Chauvin became the first white police officer in state history to be convicted of killing a Black person.

A Black life mattered, if you will.

It is just one case, but it is a start. Justice was served. That the nation held its breath because it was unsure of the verdict in the face of overwhelming evidence was disheartening. That the proper verdict was reached is reason for optimism.

But it must only be a beginning. The magnitude of the moment must not overwhelm the work ahead.

The jury's verdict doesn't change the systemic problem of racial and social injustice in this country. It doesn't change that people of color too often don't get a fair shake, or any shake at all. It doesn't root out all bad cops. It doesn't mean more Black people won't be killed by one.

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It doesn't stop racism.

It was really just accountability for one cop.

But it carries more weight than that.

It means the arc of the moral universe about which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked bent toward justice just a little bit more. Maybe an inch.

That inch is better than the alternative, because the alternative would've been unthinkable.

Instead there is hope and an eye on the future, where the world is more equal and just for everybody and not just those of a certain race, ethnicity, address, income, gender or sexual orientation. Laws must be changed. Reforms must be made.

The whole world was watching and Minnesota got it right. There's much more work to do, but what happened in Minneapolis is a start. Let's not stop.

Readers can reach Forum News Service columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 451-5655

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Mike McFeely

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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