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A seminal trial in American history
The jury’s verdict in the trial of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin — guilty on all counts — brings relief and pain. There is a sense of much remaining to be done with continued police shootings of Black men and women, a growing #BlackLivesMatter movement, and a rise in white extremism and domestic terrorism. USC experts on race, law enforcement, psychology and systemic racism react to the trial’s outcome.
‘I won’t let you die alone’
“This conviction is due, in part, to Darnella Frazier’s brave cellphone witnessing. I am so grateful that she had the wherewithal never to leave Mr. Floyd’s side. With just a cellphone, she said ‘I see you. I will remember you. I won’t let you die alone.’ Chauvin’s conviction is for the ancestors of so many brutalized Black Americans whose last moments were not filmed or vindicated in court. Thank God for this jury.”
Allissa Richardson is an expert in how marginalized communities use mobile and social media to produce innovative forms of journalism — especially in times of crisis. She is an assistant professor of communication and journalism at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the author of the book, Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones and the New Protest #Journalism.
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Social justice work for us all
“We academics are rarely speechless. But I’m overwhelmed today, grateful for a verdict that means justice has been rendered, sad that it takes such overwhelming evidence to obtain a conviction, and worried that many will see this outcome as a signal that our work is done.
“After all, some see police violence as a mistake to be fixed. There should be a solution but for many in communities of color, police mistreatment is not a bug in the system but a feature. And it is the tip of an iceberg of racial disparity in educational opportunity, neighborhood quality of life, and access to employment that we need to address.
“Let this moment close a chapter of pain for the Floyd family and open a lifetime of social justice work for us all.”
Manuel Pastor is an expert on economic, environmental and social conditions facing low-income urban communities – and the social movements seeking to change those realities. He is professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the USC Dornsife College.
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The start of conversations for change
“I am pleased with a guilty verdict on all three charges! This means we keep our foot on the gas around accountability, justice and equity!
“This is a tipping point that should lead to the furthering of conversations that will cause a change in the direction of race relations in our cities.”
Rev. Dr. Najuma Smith-Pollard is program manager of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement and pastor of Word of Encouragement Community Church in Los Angeles.
The end of the beginning
“I quote Winston Churchill in saying, ‘This is not the end, it is not the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.'”
Erroll Southers is director of the USC Safe Communities Institute and a professor of the practice of national and homeland security at the USC Price School of Public Policy.
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Relief, but also pain
“As we have held our breath during this entire case, there is finally a sigh of relief for justice. But that does not take away the pain that this trial was needed in the first place.”
April Thames is an expert on Black families and the impact of chronic disease, discrimination, substance abuse, lifetime stress/adversity and resiliency on health outcomes. She is an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
The courage to press ‘record’
“I’m disgusted by the time and beautiful lives white terrorists like Chauvin have stolen from Black people for 400 hundred years. My only solace is now there is a permanent record of their heinous acts that will educate the masses for generations to come.
“We are able to speak of a Chauvin trial because Darnella Frazier, the teen responsible for the video of the George Floyd murder, had the courage to press record. America is forever changed because of her. “
Brendesha Tynes is an associate professor of Education and Psychology at the USC Rossier School of Education. Her work focuses on youth experiences with digital media, and how they are associated with academic and socio-emotional outcomes. A study authored by Tynes demonstrated mental health effects of exposure to videos showing race-based violence.
Our place in the ‘racial hierarchy’
“The narratives we tell ourselves and others are informed by our place in the racial hierarchy. And the video of George Floyd’s death reminded us of what that racial hierarchy looks like, and feels like. The guilty verdict is a tipping point in our fight for racial justice.”