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In the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, guilty on all counts in the death of George Floyd, the verdict stands as a historic moment in the nation’s quest for racial justice. It is a decision we should treat with solemnity and gratitude.
Still, a just verdict in a single, high-profile case is not the achievement of justice. Floyd’s murder should remind us of the magnitude of the task ahead—the work still needed to realize a society in which people’s skin color no longer significantly predicts how they will fare in life.
Consider that Floyd’s murder was one death in a series of racial injustices spanning the country’s history—more recently from Eric Garner to Michael Brown to Tamir Rice to Breanna Taylor. Since testimony in the trial began in late March, at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement officers nationwide. Black, Hispanic, and Latino people represent more than half of the dead, including 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago.
These and countless other injustices, which occur daily away from the headlines, remind us how short we still fall in meeting the nation’s promise.
At Lumina, we are committed to doing all we can to ensure this promise becomes a reality. We believe that everyone—regardless of race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, or sexual identity—must be free from the threat of violence and injustice as they seek to learn, grow, and thrive in our democracy.
We are acutely aware real progress will not arise solely from reducing or ending the violence that disproportionately affects people of color. We know this violence has long roots, that it derives from unfair policies, actions, beliefs, and assumptions stretching back centuries. These unjust beliefs and actions, aided by severe failures in leadership, have long disadvantaged people of color, keeping many Black, Native American, Latino, Hispanic, and Asian people from reaching their potential.
We are far from delivering on the American promise, and the many forms of racial injustice, unfairness, and police violence tell that story.
Today’s verdict will lead to calls for change. We must not ignore them. Beyond Derek Chauvin’s trial, the actual judgment is yet to come: How will the future judge what we do next?
Will we repair a nation torn by racism? Or, will we leave another awful legacy for our children and our children’s children?
Jamie Merisotis is president and CEO of Lumina Foundation, which is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all.Back to News