George Floyd didn't just die. George Floyd was murdered.
The guilty verdict on all three counts against Derek Chauvin in a Minneapolis courtroom on Tuesday not only penalized the act by the former Minneapolis police officer, but recognized the tragedy we all witnessed in a viral video from Memorial Day.
It also opened a door. There is still time for Minnesota to become the best version of itself, if we harness the energy around this collective demand for change.
I believe I owe that to my daughters. I believe we owe that to ourselves and the next generation. Although the darkness still lingers — Daunte Wright has not been buried yet, three more officers will be tried in George Floyd's killing and Kim Potter will also have her day in court — the sun poked through the clouds on Tuesday. And I know we have to latch onto that light, even if we can only see it in one another.
I saw that light in that video. A 9-year-old girl advocated for George Floyd. Donald Williams and an off-duty EMT tried to help, too. And paramedics who could not bring him back to life did what they could. They all, with their actions, said George Floyd mattered.
I saw that light when Facebook messages announcing rallies and seeking solidarity percolated through my timeline. Also, when folks organized GoFundMe initiatives to support the push for racial equity. I saw that light when young people across this state left their classrooms to demand an end to racism and homophobia this week. I could see it when companies and organizations acknowledged their shortcomings after Floyd was killed and re-examined their leadership structures.
I saw that light again on Tuesday when the verdict was announced. On Hennepin Avenue, a young Black woman with red and black braids waved a Black Lives Matter flag through the sunroof of her SUV. A little girl in the adjacent car rolled her window down and held up her fist. A car full of white guys, two cars behind them, honked their horns and cheered.
I could hear singing. I could see people smiling. Minnesota felt hopeful again after a step toward progress. This is what Minnesota can become.
But only if it admits what it is.
This is the same place where hangings in Duluth and Mankato marked two of this nation's greatest tragedies nearly 100 years ago. This is a place that did not embrace the South's brand of Jim Crow racism but instead quietly stitched discrimination into its policies and laws.
Some of the suburbs in the Twin Cities that often crack the "Best Places to Live in America" lists once banned nonwhite residents. They were white utopias because only white people could live there. Redlining painted pristine neighborhoods white, too. This is a place that built a highway through a prominent Black neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s.
In Minnesota, white students thrive and Black students are frequently left behind, proven by the perennial gap between the groups. This is a place where Daunte Wright was killed days before we heard a verdict in the Chauvin trial.
But the shields must be removed to have a real conversation about progress.
Minnesotans love to brand themselves according to their politics. But the concept of inclusion is a trophy on the wall of too many white Minnesotans, folks who will tell you who they voted for in the most recent election when you ask them to consider the implications of racism here.
They'll also mention their nonwhite friends or the fabulous Ethiopian or Vietnamese restaurant they enjoy. But sometimes, they will refuse to acknowledge their lack of tangible relationships with people who do not look like them. Minnesota Nice, as it pertains to racism, has been historically apathetic, harmful and dangerous.
Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. But a climate that has historically dehumanized Black bodies did nothing to deter him. Minnesotans must consider that.
But there was light on Tuesday. Amid the heaviness, I could see it.
There are people here who will continue to fight, even when the national spotlight disappears. There are partnerships and alliances. There are people who've invested their time and resources, across the state, to create a future where Minnesota is no longer the hub of police killings.
I think I exhaled for the first time in nearly a year on Tuesday. And the honking horns and cheers on the streets of downtown Minneapolis were encouraging.
I know there are Minnesotans who want something else, something better than this, so that we're not living in this cycle of violence against Black bodies. I know Minnesotans would like to talk to their friends across the country about something that does not involve another tragedy. But this place has been stamped, not just because of today but because yesterday keeps happening.
Tuesday, however, presented a step toward a new day. For the first time in a long time, I could see the light.