September 24, 2021

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What Is Your Reaction to the Verdict in the Derek Chauvin Trial?

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What is your reaction to the verdict? Do you feel relieved? Upset? Hopeful? Why? What conversations, if any, did you have with family members, friends or others?

MINNEAPOLIS — A former police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck until well past Mr. Floyd’s final breath was found guilty of murder on Tuesday in a case that shook the nation’s conscience and drew millions into the streets for the largest racial justice protests in generations.

The verdict, which could send the former officer, Derek Chauvin, to prison for decades, represented a rare rebuke for police violence, following case after case of officers going without charges or convictions after killing Black men, women and children.

At the center of it all was an excruciating video, taken by a teenage girl, that showed Mr. Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on the neck of Mr. Floyd, who was Black, for nine minutes and 29 seconds as Mr. Floyd pleaded for his life and bystanders tried to intervene. Mr. Floyd repeated “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times during the encounter.

The video, played on a horrifying loop for the past year, triggered more than calls for changes in policing. It sparked Americans of all races, in small towns and large cities, to gather for mass protests chanting “Black Lives Matter,” and challenging the country to finally have a true reckoning over race. Their demands reverberated within the walls of institutions that had long resisted change, from corporate America to Congress.

This week, over the course of two days, a racially diverse jury of seven women and five men deliberated for just over 10 hours before pronouncing Mr. Chauvin guilty on all three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

President Biden praised the verdict in a nationwide address at the White House on Tuesday, but called it a “too rare” step to deliver “basic accountability” for Black Americans.

“It was a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see,” Mr. Biden said. “For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability.”

  • What is your reaction? Do you agree with the jury’s decision? Why or why not?

  • Do you believe that this is a historical moment and a turning point for America — “a giant step forward in the march toward justice,” as President Biden described it? Do you think that it marks a significant change in American consciousness? Will it lead to significant changes in law enforcement practices?

  • Or do you think that this is just one case, and that a larger struggle for racial justice and against police brutality still lies ahead? What is your reaction to the words of Philonise Floyd, one of Mr. Floyd’s younger brothers, quoted in this article as saying: “We ought to always understand that we have to march. We will have to do this for life. We have to protest because it seems like this is a never-ending cycle”?

  • The article also quotes Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer, as saying: “This moment didn’t happen because the system worked. This moment happened because the people put in the work. We had to demand justice and accountability.” Do you agree? Why or why not? Do you think justice was served in this case?

  • How much do you know about the life and death of Mr. Floyd? How closely did you follow the trial? Did you learn about it in school? Or did you discuss it at home? How did it feel to first hear the verdict?

  • What do you think should happen next? Do you believe there should be more protests? Do you think further conversations and actions around police reform, or even abolishment, are needed? (Please see our related Lesson of the Day to learn about the many ideas for police reform that have been suggested and tried around the country since the death of George Floyd.)

  • In a related Op-Ed, “How I’m Talking to My Kids About the Derek Chauvin Verdict,Esau McCaulley writes about teaching students and talking to his 13-year-old son:

  • Speaking to an ethnically diverse and politically divergent classroom about our racial divisions is complicated. I know some will be skeptical of any conversations about race and injustice.

    I also know that my vocation is education, not punditry. Students need a way of thinking, not a series of conclusions. But I also believe that students deserve the truth as charitably and carefully as I can deliver it. To ignore these issues is a privilege too many of my Black and brown students lack.

    Do you agree? Do you think that teachers all over the country should be raising these issues, even if they are complicated to discuss? How should conversations about race and policing take place in school, in your view? Why?

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