Some encouraging words before what I think could be a very hard week. And why we must raise the bar for what "justice" means to us.
This is Part Seven in my new weekly series called ABOLITION where I unpack and explain how we deconstruct and abolish America's criminal, legal, and justice systems - piece by piece.
This week is going to be a hard week.
How do I know that? Because last week was hard as hell - like historically difficult - and hardly anything has changed.
First, like the fool that I am, I still have hope that Derek Chauvin will be found guilty this week. If he is, I need us to begin using the word “accountability” when we speak of it in place of justice. Justice is WAY more complex than this one single man being found guilty. We’ve lowered the bar so incredibly low for what justice means to us that when the colonizers and oppressors don’t give it to us, we’re devastated. Let me explain what I mean.
In any battle, not just a civil rights battle, but in any type of battle for good, you will almost always only win a smaller percentage of what it is that you’re fighting for. So, if all you are fighting for is a guilty verdict, and you don’t get that guilty verdict, guess what? You’ve lost everything.
But activists and organizers and families in Minnesota are fighting for more than just guilty verdicts. Yes, Derek Chauvin should be found guilty, but criminal accountability is about 5% of what we’re calling for. We’re calling for new policies, new budgets, and a complete overhaul of what public safety even means at the root level. That’s what this whole weekly series is about. We must craft and accept a much larger vision for what it is we are fighting for. We must.
But I want to give you some simple, but encouraging words to carry with you through this week - and even this whole Spring and Summer - because I think we are going to have a very heavy few months ahead of us…
We will endure this. We are exhausted, yes. It’s too much, yes. But we will endure it. It will not be the end of us - of you - or our work. No matter how hard the days are ahead, we will continue fighting with our whole hearts - and here’s what I truly believe…
We will win. Not every battle. Not every case. But we will win.
Racism and inequality are deeply embedded into the very fibers of this country, but we have the skills, the wisdom, the plans, and the people to shift and change systems piece by piece, policy by policy, and we will. I know it in my bones.
I once had a profound conversation with Kadiatou Diallo - the wonderful mother of Amadou Diallo - who was shot and killed by the NYPD in 1999. He was unarmed and non-violent. He was compliant. And broke no laws.
Kadiatou told me how it pained her that most of the world knows her son through the terror of his final moments, but that’s not how she knows him. She birthed him. She raised him. She loved him for a generation. And hardly thinks of those final moments when she thinks of him. The rest of us hardly think of anything else. But we should.
And this week, all week, as we think of George Floyd, I am going to think of him in this wonderful picture I’ve shared with you above. He was a devout Christian and did street ministry in Houston with the team you saw there. They loved him. And he loved the work. I am not going to replay his final moments in my head, but I am going to think of this.
Now, if Derek Chauvin isn’t convicted, I expect all hell to break loose. And frankly, it should. Let’s take it day by day. And hope it doesn’t come to that.
Love you all.
Let me share the rest of my new series, ABOLITION, with you here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shaun King is one of the most followed and shared activists and journalists in the world. In addition to being the Founder and Editor in Chief of The North Star, he also leads the Grassroots Law Project and the Real Justice PAC. A historian by training, Shaun King is the New York Times bestselling author of Make Change: How to Fight Injustice, Dismantle Systemic Oppression, and Own Our Future. Shaun’s daily news podcast, The Breakdown with Shaun King, has been heard and shared hundreds of millions of times in almost every country in the world and is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and everywhere podcasts are heard. Shaun has been with his brilliant wife, Rai, for nearly 25 years, and they are raising their 5 kids in Brooklyn, New York.