Biden, Harris, Waters Wrong on Chauvin Verdict
Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
On Tuesday, the Chauvin verdict was read in Minneapolis. The finding of guilty in all counts led to cheers from some and relief from many. Immediately, the protesters that had gathered outside the courtroom, rocks in hand, lauded the jury's decision. In nearby Brooklyn Center where Daunte Wright was shot during a routine traffic stop while the Chauvin trial was still ongoing, many hit the streets in glee.
As expected, politicians took to the cameras to get their minute of attention and seek credit for the progress they claim has been made. President Designate Joe Biden called the verdict "a step forward" while noting there is still much work to be done. Vice President Designate Kamala Harris called it "an inflection moment" in American history. It appears that in their rush to philosophize on the significance of the Chauvin case, these poetic waxers are making a mistake.
Regardless of one's view on the appropriateness of the jury's decision, the Chauvin trial verdict is simply a commentary on the guilt of one police officer, in one case, involving one African American arrestee. Questions about premeditation and causations aside, there is little doubt that something went horribly wrong when former police officer Derek Chauvin took control of George Floyd. Yes, police officers have to make split second decisions while their own lives are at stake at a time when the country is divided to the point of almost being irreparably fractured, but when an unresponsive individual is held for over three minutes and fifty one seconds without having assistance rendered to him after having already been detained on the floor, handcuffed, and with a knee on his back for five minutes and thirty-seven seconds, one must wonder whether such is the manner in which Americans expect their police to conduct business.
The question of whether Chauvin actually murdered Floyd is a much different one and less obvious than the one asking whether something had gone wrong. The answer to the murder question is laced with considerations over discretion, judgment, training, compliance, and just as importantly, legal definitions of the charges being considered. In this case, the jury, which was exposed to all the relevant information over the span of six days, decided that the evidence fit the definition of murder and voted to convict.
Having not been in the courtroom with them for all six days and not being burdened with the task of making the weighty decision they made, the public is in no position to second-guess the members of the jury and must respect their position. However, to say that such a verdict represents an inflection moment in American history, or a step forward in race relations is simply ascribing to the jury and the judicial system functions that they simply do not possess.
The fact is that America was held hostage over this trial's outcome. As of this writing, it appears that protests and gatherings since the verdict's announcement have been peaceful, but consider what would have happened had the verdict gone the other way. Under the same or similar circumstances, this jury could have reasonably acquitted Chauvin on the murder charges simply based on causation. Then what? The violence that would have erupted would have been herculean. Simply put, the dependence of peace on a preferred trial outcome is no peace at all, and the appeasement of the activists is not justice.
In all fairness, the likes of Biden, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton have all mentioned the long and protracted road that still remains ahead of us before we can achieve a peaceful coexistence amongst America's various racial groups, but I'm afraid they are pointing us in the wrong direction.
After all these years of struggle, debate, rioting, and yelling, it appears that the man who was there at the beginning of this process was the one who was closest to the truth, Reverend Martin Luther King. For him, the goal was a nation where his children would not be judged by the color their skin but by the content of their character. He called for a day when "all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: 'Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.'"
The path to that day centers on God, on the respect for human dignity, and on the presumption that it matters not what one's background is, what matters is sharing in the unguaranteed opportunity to succeed, or fail. This path cannot, by definition, rest on the mantra that black lives matter any more than other subtypes of lives. It cannot hinge on a verdict being more appropriate if it is perceived to favor one group over another. It cannot include reparations beyond the blood, sweat, and hardship that has already taken place in the pursuit for justice, and it certainly cannot be based on the false charge of systemic racism when in fact such a legal environment was rescinded with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
The true question before us today is what we mean when we speak of equality? In seeking equality, are we aiming to stack the deck so white people get punished at the expense of minorities until somebody declares that the appropriate intergenerational punishment has been achieved? Or in the words of Reverend King are we aiming to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood and make justice a reality for all God's children?
It seems to me that the path Biden, Harris, Sharpton, Jackson and others insist on taking us down is one very different from the one laid out by the Reverend. Their path is one of reverse racism, of claiming victory when the white guy gets pushed to the ground, when minorities remain dependent on government, and when they are told that it's okay to enter life less qualified for success because the government has rigged the system in your favor simply because of the color of your skin.
Say what you want, that system does not speak of justice. It speaks of yet another form of injustice. It is a system that propagates inequality even as it claims to promote equality. It is a path quite different to the one laid out by Martin Luther King. Say what you want, I'll stick to the path pointed out by Reverend King.
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Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He served in the Florida House of Representatives. He is the author of numerous books including The Federalist Pages, The Case for Free Market Healthcare, and Coronalessons. He is available for appearances and book signings, and can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com.