Whose on trial?

There are a few things that we need to talk about, when it comes to the Derek Chauvin trial.

I’m not the first person to say any of this, I’m sure. But I feel the need to reiterate them, anyways. The first being, that George Floyd is not on trial. Derek Chauvin is.

We know that language matters.

And in this country, we have a habit of referring to trials by the name of the Black person involved. Whether that person be the victim or the accused.

The Trayvon Martin trial…The Emmett Till trial…The George Floyd trial…

This may seem like a small thing, but when the Black person is the victim – it takes away accountability from the one who caused harm. Usually, their names and faces fade away into obscurity – as they inevitably get off and escape punishment.

All that’s left are the faces, names, and maimed bodies of the Black victims; typically accompanied by a mugshot or story villanizing them, thanks to the media.

It tells us that even when we are the victim, we are still somehow in the wrong. 

Secondly, Black people are not on trial. Derek Chauvin is.

It is, to put it mildly, infuriating.

Hella infuriating, to have seen Derek Chauvin’s defense question a witness to the murder. A person who had to decide whether to physically step in or not. Someone who is no doubt forever changed – Donald Williams II, another Black man. A Black man, who the defense was clearly trying to pit as angry and aggressive. 

Playing up on Black stereotypes. 

The reason being? To give credence to why Derek Chauvin held his knee on George Floyd’s neck, for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. His argument, essentially, was that the scary Black onlooker(s) were being mean and calling Chauvin names – so THAT’S why Chauvin couldn’t let up off of Geroge’s neck.

As the defense’s questions, and their intentions, became more blatantly disrespectful – I had to give props to Donald Wiliams II. He held it together in a way that I’m not sure would have been possible, for me.

He also said some things that I would have said. He said what I felt.

Chauvin Defense: Do you recall saying “I dare you to touch me like that. I’ll slap the fuck out of both of you”?

Donald Williams II: “Yeah, I did. I meant it.”

That’s an “I said what I said,” if I’ve ever heard one.

Our society demonizes Black anger. The defense knows that and is banking on it. 

Black people can’t get angry. Black people are always angry. Black anger is scary. Black anger is dangerous. Black anger is always wrong. 

Despite the fact that everyone who watched George’s death SHOULD have been angry. That is the response you should have, watching someone be murdered. That anger is righteous and justified and protective and pure. 

Donald Williams II told the defense that he couldn’t paint him as angry. What he meant, is not in a negative way. Not in the “angry Black person” stereotype way. Not in the “this is the cause for Chauvin’s behavior” way.

Thirdly, while Derek Chauvin is on trial – you could say that America is, too.

I don’t know if this is the same for non-Black people, but for us, this trial is loaded. Looming heavily is the neverending brutality imposed on our community. The weight of every Black social justice movement from BLM, to the Black Panthers, to the days of and directly after slavery – and everything in-between, is present. The culmination of every officer that has assaulted and murdered and…gotten away with it, plays in the backdrop of our minds.

And the air. The air is filled with a quiet and simultaneously loud rage, exhaustion and adrenaline-fueled energy, numbness and pain, unwarranted hope and pattern-fueled thoughts of resignment – that another one will get off again. 

At least, that’s what the air in my house is thick with. A King syrup, type of thick.

If found guilty, it will somehow be the most minuscule of and profound steps, towards acknowledging that Derek, and this nation, are at fault.

If found not guilty, it will be just another reminder that the system is working the way it was intended. Perfectly culpable, intentionally cruel, and without recourse.


When JanayB isn’t posting memes, scrolling through “wokebook” posts, ordering food and otherwise being your typical millennial, you can find her here destroying white tears and basking in her unapologetic blackness. Get in touch with her at JanayBsays@gmail.com

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