Photo by Tito Texidor III on Unsplash

“Guilty was the verdict,” my neighbor Chris said. After confirming that Derek Chauvin had indeed been found guilty, I sat for a minute, contemplating. Was Chauvin really the guilty one or were the real culprits the institution of policing and the Eurocentric culture that doesn’t value Black life? Was Chauvin responding to the expectations of being a White police officer in America?

Chauvin was held accountable for his actions, but what does his conviction change?

As a law clerk, it is my opinion that Chauvin’s lawyer failed him – and the American public – by not putting policing on trial the way Lynn Stewart did when she defended Larry Davis, who shot it out with the police in the Bronx and was found not guilty of attempted murder of nine officers in the 1980’s. 

The police, police culture, and police corruption were the guilty parties. 

My parents emigrated from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.Their Trinidadian values and their lack of exposure to the Black American experience tutored my formative years. They held firmly to the belief that if you worked hard, believed in God’s Word, and avoided the pitfalls of the street, you’d never be a George Floyd. It was a naive take, guided by their own “up by the bootstraps” mentality.

My parents had little empathy for what they saw as the “on the corner” African American experience. I, however, lived and breathed the African American experience from which they tried so hard to insulate me. Being in a cell is my proof.

The police are the first defense in maintaining the racist and classist pecking order that makes  Black Lives Matter less. Police officers in white American culture are trained to protect White America and her values at all cost. Race- and class-biased justice costs human lives, especially Black lives.

The “blue wall of silence” – the informal code among police officers to not report on each other –  has created a sorrowful and tortured history for and about Black people in America. Eleanor Bumpers, Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, all the way through to the last Black person being shot by a “peace officer” right now. Most, if not all, people gunned down are labeled criminal offenders. Does the label diminish their humanity in the eyes of the police? Or is it simply the color of a person’s skin? 

Officer Chauvin was trained by the police to choke, tase, shoot, and, if necessary, kill people who fail, in his estimation, to obey the law. When he went to the shooting range for practice, I wonder, did those black-and-white silhouette paper targets remind him of people who look like me? Do police officers see killing Black people as part of their job? Do they have a conscience about killing people?

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Paul Thompson

Paul Thompson is a writer incarcerated at Green Haven Correctional Facility in New York.