Chauvin Verdict

April 20, 2021

Dear Salem Community,

Nearly a year ago, on May 25, 2020, a man named George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We learned then exactly how long each minute can be – and how very, very long 8 minutes and 46 seconds are. (Indeed, at trial, we learned the actual time was even longer – 9 minutes and 29 seconds.)

Today, the trial of police officer Derek Chauvin came to a close, and verdicts on three counts were rendered by a jury several hours ago: guilty on each of those counts, including a count of murder.

For many of us, this was unexpected. And, for many, those verdicts came as a welcome relief. Perhaps the intervening days, weeks and months since George Floyd’s death in May 2020 have brought change.

And yet, we know that in those same intervening months we have seen additional violence perpetrated in similar situations. We have continued to see racist and gendered discrimination against African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinx Americans. And we have seen their murders. In the days, weeks and months since Floyd’s death, we have added too many more names to the too-long-list of names – including that of Adam Toledo, one of the youngest people killed by the police in Illinois in a long time. Saying their names – and we know this is not all of them – matters. So, too, does action.

This is a time to pause and to look directly at what has happened. To pause and see what each of us has – and has not done – in the interest of change. And, to ask tomorrow, what more we can do?

This is a time to pause and see clearly both the movement toward change and the deep effort required to continue to move forward.

This is a time to pause and see our history for what it is – deeply flawed – and the need to ignite our future with critical intelligence rather than naivete. We must see what is wrong to move beyond it.

At Salem, we have been trained in diversity, equity and inclusion since the Floyd murder. We have shifted toward anti-racist work – and we have struggled to educate one another about this. We have moved at the Board level to institutionalize our responsibility to act in this arena. We have taken some steps – and have many more to take – as we build a more just future. 

As we pause, we are each reminded of the horror of such murders and the hope we create by acting for justice each and every day. We know today as we pause that tomorrow we have much to do. 

Please take a moment today – and every day – and then, as those jurors did, act decisively for a better world. 


Susan Henking