On April 20, the country moved towards closure when a Minneapolis jury convicted Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with murder and manslaughter for the May 25, 2020 killing of George Floyd. Representatives of Chauvin did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment on the conviction. Barack and Michelle Obama were among the first to weigh in on the historic moment with a joint message. Although the former president and first lady thanked the jury for doing "the right thing," they also acknowledged the difference between "true justice" and a perpetrator being held accountable for his actions. Barack and Michelle Obama's statement on the Derek Chauvin verdict focuses on all the work that still needs to be done to ensure every person is guaranteed justice.
Chauvin was one of the officers who involved in the fatal May 2020 arrest of Floyd. In a widely-circulated video, Chauvin is seen kneeling on Floyd's neck for upwards of nine minutes. On April 20, 2021, Chauvin was found guilty on on all three charges against him relating to Floyd's death: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second degree-manslaughter.
Barack and Michelle Obama called the guilty verdict a "necessary step" but cautioned against thinking that it had solved the problems that caused Floyd's death in the first place. In a joint statement shared on Twitter and Facebook, the former first couple opened up about the worldwide impact of the verdict.
"For almost a year, George Floyd’s death under the knee of a police officer has reverberated around the world — inspiring murals and marches, sparking conversations in living rooms and new legislation. But a more basic question has always remained: would justice be done?" they began. "In this case, at least, we have our answer. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that true justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial."
While the Obamas praised the jury for doing "the right thing," they also argued that true justice won't be achieved without acknowledging ongoing racism.
"True justice requires that we come to terms with the fact that Black Americans are treated differently, every day," they continued. "It requires us to recognize that millions of our friends, family, and fellow citizens live in fear that their next encounter with law enforcement could be their last."
Looking forward, the Obamas reiterated that now was not the time to rest, but rather the time to do the "sometimes thankless, often difficult, but always necessary work of making the America we know more like the America we believe in."
"While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one," they wrote. "We cannot rest. We will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system. We will need to redouble efforts to expand economic opportunity for those communities that have been too long marginalized."
The couple concluded their post on a positive note by highlighting all the people who had fought over the last year to bring awareness to police brutality against Black Americans as well as ongoing social and economic inequalities and systemic racism.
"And as we continue the fight, we can draw strength from the millions of people — especially young people — who have marched and protested and spoken up over the last year, shining a light on inequity and calling for change. Justice is closer today not simply because of this verdict, but because of their work," the Obamas wrote, adding, "We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all those who are committed to guaranteeing every American the full measure of justice that George and so many others have been denied."
If you want to get involved with anti-racism work, you can educate yourself about ongoing systemic racism and efforts to combat it, follow anti-racism activists, donate to support people doing the work, and join organizations that are fighting systemic racism.