My Grandmother Waited Her Whole Life for That Guilty Verdict | Opinion

My grandmother is an avid watcher of the 5 p.m. news. She rarely misses a day. Living in the South for 80 years, experiencing Jim Crow and segregation, she's seen a lot. On Tuesday, she saw something new.

"Did you see it, D?" She asked me when she called me later that evening.

"Yes, Gran. I saw it," I said.

"They got him," she said. "They found him guilty of all three charges. I'm so glad they got him."

There was relief in her voice. But I could also hear something else—all the injustices that she has experienced.

Because the trial was not just about justice for George Floyd. Of course, it was about him, and the brutal way in which his life was stolen from him. But the trial—and the verdict—were also about Black Americans regaining hope in a flawed justice system that has never treated us as equals, that in my grandmother's case, had barely treated her as human.

Could the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial mean we were turning a corner? Can the system work for us, too?

In the run up to the verdict, I was tense. Everyone I know was on edge, watching the news with clenched palms, unable to tear our eyes away from the television, desperate for a guilty outcome yet scarcely daring to hope. We knew anything other than a guilty verdict would send our community beyond our breaking point. We knew that we couldn't take another blow of this significance. Yet with our history, how could we dare to hope for what we so desperately needed?

When the verdict was read out, we heaved a collective sigh of relief. It was a much needed win for a community that has witnessed countless lives lost to police brutality. It was a glimmering ray of hope, yet cut through with the suffering of all those who never received justice.

And was this justice? I'm thankful that George Floyd's family can finally get some form of closure for their family. But the truth is, his daughter will never see her father again. His family is still grieving. And we across the Black community will never forget the image that we saw on our screens for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

And still, I can sleep a little better knowing that maybe all of our prayers and protesting hasn't been in vain. Maybe there is still hope for an end to racism and prejudice, though we have a long way to go.

Maybe, just maybe, the world I'm raising my sons and daughters in is different than the one my grandmother grew up in.

Gianna Floyd: Your Daddy sure did change the world.

young protestors
Young protestors during the Birmingham Campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, May 1963. The movement, which called for the integration of African Americans, was organized by Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Shuttlesworth amongst others. Frank Rockstroh/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

We must be thankful for this victory and for those who helped make it possible, even as we acknowledge that there's more work to be done.

And what is that work? We have to become one unified America, and we still have a long way to go. America is in the process of healing, but that begins with acknowledging the social, economic and systemic inequalities that have plagued Black people for decades. It begins by recognizing the issues that disproportionately affect brown and Black people, things like the Black/white wealth gap, or police brutality against people of color, or mass incarceration.

We have to take the next steps in deepening the conversation. We have to allow ourselves to be uncomfortable until we see the change we are praying for.

The church has an amazing opportunity to be on the front lines of this new civil rights struggle. Will it take this opportunity and lead the way, forging ahead a new unity that will push America to be a bastion of equality for all her citizens?

We can no longer pretend racism doesn't exist. The heart of God is grieved and nation is crying for help.

I believe there are good people in this country who are ready for change. We saw them on the jury this week. They told us what we already knew: that Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.

It's time for the rest of America to take note. It's time for you to make my grandmother proud. She's been waiting her whole life.

Pastor Derrick Hawkins is a pastor at The Refuge, a multi-racial, multi-ethnic evangelical church in North Carolina. Together with Pastor Jay Stewart, he is the author of "Welded: Forming Racial Bonds That Last."

The views in this article are the writer's own.