“Chauvin Verdict in one hour” was the simple text message I sent to a few friends
midafternoon Tuesday, April 20 th . “Praying” was the immediate response from one. “That was quick” texted another soon after. “I’m so nervous” and from the same thread “Oh God!” Even though the evidence was overwhelming and the prosecutors presented a nearly flawless case for conviction, there was still a mixture of anxiety and dread that my friends and I felt as we waited for the verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial.
When the verdict was announced, many celebrated the fact that the disgraced former Minneapolis police officer was convicted on all 3 counts, including 2 nd and 3 rd degree murder, in the murder of George Floyd. Watching the news that night reminded me of a similar public reaction almost 30 years ago, but this time to an acquittal. I was on a temporary assignment for my job at a private correctional company in Philadelphia and was walking through the hotel lobby waiting on a cab to take me dinner. I saw that the OJ Simpson verdict was about to be read and stood close to the television so I could hear. Because I was so engrossed in the verdict, I didn’t realize that I was the only black person in the bar. However, when “Not Guilty” was read, the patrons in the bar groaned and in what seemed like a scene from a scary movie, all turned to look at me.
Even as the all-white bar patrons grumbled about how unfair the verdict was and some
turned away from the televisions, the middle-aged man seated next to me asked me what I thought about it. What I wanted to say was “Finally! In Your Face!” But since I wanted to make It out of the bar alive, I paused and took a sip of my soda before I responded. When I started speaking, I felt a little like EF Hutton as a few others sitting near us leaned in.
My response was simple: “After weighing all the evidence the jury made what I believe
is a just and wise decision.” Of course, they didn’t buy that and wanted to get into a debate about jury bias and all kinds of other issues. I let them speak for a few minutes and repeated my first statement again. When they saw that I was not going to argue, they turned away and I hurried from the bar as my cab had arrived. Perfect timing! Later, I saw how others jubilantly celebrated Simpson’s acquittal, for a variety of reasons. I thought about this experience with the OJ trial as I watched news coverage of the Chauvin verdict. Though separated by decades, both trials show the power that the public space has for allowing people to collectively share grief and joy and ultimately heal. However, even though the trial is over, the Floyd family is still grieving the loss of their brother, father, uncle, cousin, and friend. Romans 12:15 encourages us to “ Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” As we continue to celebrate the justice of the Chauvin verdict, we should also take time to continue to pray for God’s healing and comfort for George Floyd’s family. And we should also pray that this verdict be a much-needed step toward justice and healing for our nation.
Shewanda Riley is a Dallas-based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.