HOUSTON — Danyal Green had just come home and switched on the television when she started to jump up and down and scream: “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!”
Her 24-year-old daughter, Paris Green, came out of the bathroom, startled by her mother’s cries.
Then the two women put on shirts bearing George Floyd’s face and drove to Cuney Homes, the public housing project where he grew up. In front of a mural of Floyd, whom they had known from shared holidays at a relative’s home, they held each other and wept.
The murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in Floyd’s death brought relief, but it also spurred reflection on the justice deferred for many other Black men and women, Danyal Green said.
“My dad never got a chance to see this,” she said through sobs. “My grandmother never got a chance to see this. But in my lifetime and in my children’s lifetime, they got a chance to see it.”
They were not the only ones with mixed emotions. Across the country, Black Americans welcomed the conviction of Chauvin on three charges with free-flowing tears, raised fists and unbridled elation.
But the positive feelings were tempered by outrage over other injustices and worries that one officer’s conviction would be held up as proof that the systemic problems highlighted by Floyd’s killing were solved. If that sentiment takes hold, activists warned, it would blunt the urgency of a year-long movement.
“People are going to try to use this incident to say we’re healed from racism without actually doing the real work to get at the root of the problem,” said Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, a Philadelphia activist who helped organize bail funds for people arrested during last summer’s protests.
“The moment will pass, and people will say [Floyd’s] name on the anniversary of the day, just like they say Trayvon’s name, just like they say Breonna Taylor’s name. But does that mean that we’re not going to be seeing names in the future? I don’t think that’s true. Does that mean that White people have corrected themselves, or the system has corrected itself in addressing this thing that we all have been socialized in, which is white supremacy?”
Floyd’s Memorial Day killing, and the ensuing protests that spilled onto American streets, forced the nation to confront systemic racism that permeates many aspects of American life. But some of the larger reforms that protesters pushed for have stalled, activists say, and there have been few major policy victories.
U.S. lawmakers wore kente cloth and knelt while introducing the Justice in Policing Act, but have not enacted meaningful legislation, including laws that would ban chokeholds like the one that killed Floyd. Floyd’s family led a moment of silence at the Democratic National Convention and President Biden called the Floyds after Chauvin’s guilty verdict was read, but he has been guarded about whether the U.S. Senate should end or amend the filibuster to pass a police reform bill that bears George Floyd’s name.
On April 11, just 10 miles from where Chauvin was tried, a 20-year-old Black man was shot and killed during a traffic stop. The Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer accused of shooting Daunte Wright said she thought she was holding her Taser when she fired her service weapon. Days later, Chicago authorities released graphic video of 13-year-old Adam Toledo being chased through an alley where he was shot and killed March 29, by a police officer who thought the teen was holding a gun. Shortly before the Chauvin verdict was read, police shot and killed a 16-year-old Black girl in Columbus, Ohio.
“I’m glad that Derek Chauvin is going to jail,” said Shanee Garner, a lifelong West Philadelphia resident who is a legislative director for a city council member. In her community, neighbors hugged, motorists honked cars horns and people whooped as the Chauvin verdict was read. “But I hope that this moment is not taken as an indicator that our system is just and police brutality is solved.”
In Kenosha, Wis., where another Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot by police, Michael White paused to reflect on the Chauvin verdict.
Blake was partially paralyzed last summer after being shot seven times in the back by a White police officer.
“I’m glad they found the police guilty, that’s good,” said White, who is Black and works at a steel mill. “I just wish they’d find more police guilty for some of the stuff they’re doing around here.”
White spoke at 20th Avenue and 60th Street, a short distance from the church where President Biden spoke after the Blake shooting.
He noted that, unlike in the Floyd case, the officer who shot Blake wasn’t charged or disciplined. “He got his job back,” White said, his voice rising with anger.
Stephanie Keene, a Philadelphia organizer who wants to abolish the police and prison system, said she had already worried that the narrative was shifting to highlight the problems of a bad police officer, not problems inherent in policing.
“People will say we’ve rooted out that one bad actor and that’s all it was — one bad actor,” Keene said. “It’s not a systemic issue. It’s not policing working as it’s designed, it’s Derek Chauvin being a bad example of America’s finest. But my bigger worry is that the general public will be like, ‘We let the system handle it and the system handled it, and now we can go to brunch.’ ”
Maura Ewing, Haisten Willis, Jenny Rogers and Dan Simmons contributed to this report.
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