[Opinion] Derek Chauvin’s conviction is only the first step to ending systemic racism

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Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS

People react after the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis.

Haley Jackson, Writer

In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi. Till, an African-American male, was accused of making flirtatious physical and verbal advances to Carolyn Bryant, a white woman. A few days after the alleged incident, Till was taken from his family by Brant’s husband and brother-in-law. He was beaten to death, had his eyes gouged out, and shot in the head before being thrown into a river with a 75 pound cotton gin and barbed wire tied around his head. 

In 2007, Carolyn Bryant admitted to lying about Till making advances on her. Till’s death served as a catalyst for activism and the fight to obtain equal rights, later becoming known as the Civil Rights movement. 

In many ways, George Floyd is considered as one of the catalysts of the 21st century in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement. Founded in 2013 after the death of Trayvon Martin, the Black Lives Matter organization started after a tweet, #BlackLivesMatter gained much support on Twitter. Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many more African Americans have lost their lives to police brutality. 

The death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, caused global outcry across the United States and even in other nations. The hope for equality and an end to racism pushed many people to assume the risk of COVID-19 to support obtaining justice for George Floyd. 

Floyd allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill to pay at a local store in Minneapolis, Minnesota resulting in the store clerk calling the police. After their arrival, the incident escalated when Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis officer, held his knee on Floyd’s neck for a total of 9 minutes and 29 seconds which resulted in Floyd’s death. The entire incident was recorded by Darnella Fraizer, who was 17 at the time. 

On April 20, 2020, former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of manslaughter, second-degree murder, and third-degree murder. The conviction of Derek Chauvin is celebrated by many who feel that all too often, justice is not served for the loss of Black lives. While Chauvin’s conviction is a noteworthy change in the pattern of most police brutality cases, by no means should this send the signal that racism and inequality have been solved. 

The conviction of one officer will simply never be enough to forgive the countless Black lives who never received justice. Society must use Derek Chauvin’s conviction as a stepping stone to greater systemic change. Chauvin’s conviction must be replicated in other police brutality cases. To really grant equality for Black Americans, the United States must work on every aspect of their society. 

Disparities in the health community

The United States must work on the disparities with the health community. According to the CDC, Black American women are four to five times more likely to die of pregnancy-related deaths than white women. This sad, but true, case is a reality because Black women are often dismissed by medical professionals in regard to their pain. 

The disparities within healthcare can be most recently seen in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. According to the CDC, with 55% of the population having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, only 8.6% of Black Americans have been vaccinated compared to 64.4%.

Disparities in voting rights

In addition, the United States must address the disparities Black American’s face in the voting process. Although Black men were granted the right to vote by the 15th Amendment in 1870, the process to actually carry out this right was rather difficult. Black men trying to register to vote were faced with a variety of tests and questions they must pass to register to vote. While registering to vote today does not have the same process, voter suppression is still seen in society today. 

Most recently present in Georgia after the passage of a bill pushing major change in how elections are conducted and the weight of certain votes. This bill closes voting booths on Sundays-a time when many in the Black community take part in Souls to the polls, a group walk from church services to voting booths- as well as bans mobile voting sites, which mainly bring voting to low income and Black communities. 

Disparities in income

Furthermore, systemic change must occur in the income of Black Americans. The difference between the median white household income to the median Black household income is substantial. According to Urban Institute, the median white household income is $61,363 compared to the $38,183 of a Black household. 

The household income goes hand in hand with the rate of homeownership. In 2017, the white homeownership rate was 71.9% while Black homeownership was 30.1% lower with only 41.8% owning homes. By working to fix the income gap between whites and African Americans, the median household income will also increase. 

With the continued loss of Black Americans, the conviction of one police officer is simply not enough. The United States must actively work to improve policing with better hires and training. In a time as innovative as 2021, there is no excuse for police to not have the best training possible. 

Police are meant to protect and support the community. The continuation of killing of Black lives instead neglects and endangers the Black community. Derek Chauvin cannot be the “sacrificial lamb.” 

“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” ~Malcolm X