The following is a statement from Earlham President Anne Houtman regarding the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty earlier today of all three charges against him — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — in the death of George Floyd.
Like many of you, I watched in horror last summer as footage of George Floyd’s final moments emerged. As Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, Floyd choked out the words “I can’t breathe” nearly 30 times — until he could no longer speak. After his death, these whispered words became a rallying cry for change.
In this instance, those words were heard. But there have been other times when they weren’t. And there may be again.
As we sit with the verdict, it’s also easy to remember the anger that swept the United States and the world in the summer of 2020. The outcry over systemic racism. The outrage over police brutality. This anger is justified, but simmering anger is not enough.
As Earlhamites, we understand what it means to be global citizens. We also understand that our words and our actions — collectively and as individuals — can change the world for the better. This knowledge comes with a certain responsibility. To protest injustice, yes. To actively seek accountability, to ask the tough questions, to be proactive within our own communities rather than wait for another tragedy to occur.
Protest is an expression, an embodiment, of the difficult work of justice. To move forward without doing the difficult work that justice demands is to silence George Floyd’s whispered words and our own cries for reform. Let’s raise our voices in pursuit of change — but let’s also raise our actions.