By Lara Willbanks
King’s Page Adviser
The conviction of Deputy Derek Chauvin in the George Floyd murder trial this week was news-worthy and historic. It is understandable for students and all in our community to have a number of different emotions from relief to anger to fear of what the future holds. This has been an unprecedented year, and we turned to some of our San Marcos social studies teachers to help make sense of this verdict and put this event in historical context. Below are some thoughts from our San Marcos social studies teachers.
World History Teacher, Melanie Jacobson reminds us that this year has allowed for introspection but the work is not finished. “In my lifetime, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the words “unprecedented” or “historic” used to describe so many events in a single year as this one. Yesterday’s decision on the Derek Chauvin case is one of those historic moments. My partner called out to me that the judge was about to read the jury’s verdict. Like so many Americans and people worldwide, on the edge of their seats, listening in, I knew in my bones that the verdict would be consequential. With the verdict, we are taking a momentous step toward honest national/global introspection about race – in policing, in schools, in courts, in our daily interactions. This will be a long, ongoing process that impacts each one of us. I am particularly sympathetic to citizens of Minneapolis whose hearts are are feeling a mix of emotions, especially since George Floyd’s murder last spring, the global protests that ensued, the trial of the officer responsible for ending Floyd’s life for all to see, and, in the midst of it, the unwarranted, tragic police killing of Daunte Wright, another young Black man from the city. We’re on a roller coaster journey. Hang on, and put your weight, heart, and mind into it.”
Government Teacher Charles Clow shared his reaction to the verdict and the importance of accountability. “The verdict is a necessary but insufficient step toward progress in healing the racial divides that plague the U.S. My first reaction to the verdict was surprise; it actually happened. And that’s telling. There was video documenting a murder that lasted nine and a half minutes. The fundamental facts of the case were not in dispute. And I was still surprised that the officer was found guilty of murder, since countless other times, a similar set of circumstances has played out a very different way. I hope this verdict can serve as a positive step forward for the U.S., but mostly, I hope it has given the Floyd family some semblance of peace. This is not justice, but it is accountability, which is preferable to no accountability at all.”
Ethnic Studies Teacher Nicole Powers shared, “Today’s verdict is monumental in the fight for racial justice. Today, our nation takes a big step forward towards honoring that Black Lives Matter. Today, is also one step, of many, that we need to take in order to heal the deep wounds that racism has and continues to inflict on our country. Until, everyone can go on a run, take public transit, walk in a park, or sleep in their own bedroom without the fear that their lives may be at risk, justice will not be served.”
World History and Economics teacher Zachary Eichert stated, “To be subjected to cruelty and extreme violent acts by a person wearing the uniform of a peace officer is catastrophic to a community’s sense of dignity and justice. Murder cannot be tolerated, even if—or especially if—it is commited by a person vested with power by the state. These are two lessons I am trying to hold onto in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.”