Not watching Derek Chauvin’s trial is the same as white silence during the Black Lives Matter protests

When reading the excerpts of the trial of Derek Chauvin – the policeman who killed George Floyd, it really made me sick for a moment. A nauseating feeling, a powerless, weak feeling and a lump in my throat.

The defence in the case brought witnesses to the stand saying “drugs killed George Floyd” and “the knee of Chauvin didn’t injure George Floyd”. Can anyone believe this? Even though I know how court cases go, isn’t it from the utmost sadness that particularly in this case, the killing of Floyd and the aftermath of the global Black Lives Matter protests last year, there are people saying those things in court.

How healing would it be for the Black community and how insightful for the whole nation and for the globe actually, if Derek Chauvin – who chose not to take the stand as testimony at his murder trial – would share in public what he was thinking and feeling when pressing his knee against George Floyd’s neck.

I’m not a legal expert but wouldn’t it be a good idea if Chauvin would be forced to say something instead of giving him the opportunity to stay silent? In the context of systemic racism and the fact that white silence is part of the problem, how can we go forward without having heard the killer speak?

Maybe I’m talking too much out of emotion here. Let’s see what is left to do if I accept the fact that Chauvin won’t speak? The argumentation of white silence is still valid. That’s why I’m writing about it now. I can’t follow the trial without feeling uncomfortable and terrible about the situation and while it is happening another two young Black men, Dante Wright and Adam Toledo, got killed last week.

The only way out is through. And I mean that for white people. Alia E. Dastagir writes for USA Today:  

“The media has fixated on how these weeks are retraumatizing Black Americans. It has focused much less on what some experts on race argue is the trial’s more crucial audience: white Americans.” 

She quotes psychotherapist Janel Cubbage: “It’s a natural tendency to want to avoid things that make us feel bad. That’s human nature and it’s understandable, however, when we move into scenarios or situations with the gravity of police brutality or a trial like this one, it’s not beneficial for anyone to avoid the discomfort that comes with these topics.”

I follow most of the trial through the coverage by North America correspondent for the BBC Larry Madowo and his personal engagement of being Black gives an extra layer to his reporting. He beautifully describes the pain in the US the last three weeks in this audio (from 11:20 onwards) and ends with a poem that he first read in high school:

If you should take my child,
Lord Give my hands strength to dig his grave;
cover him with earth Lord send a little rain,
for grass will grow.

Besides following someone like Madowo on Twitter, I also realize that as a white person I shouldn’t just consume the news, I should also speak out about the discomfort I’m feeling as a white person.

We won’t hear Chauvin speak, but what if we’d hear a white journalist share an extra layer to the coverage as well. Like Madowo’s poem through which he identifies with the pain of the Black community, I’d love to see a white journalist sharing feelings that identify with the shame, the embarrassment, the lack of self-reflection and discomfort within the white community. We urgently need to address the work white people need to do. Watching the trial of the murderer of George Floyd is just as important as protesting in the streets. Not watching equals white silence and that doesn’t bring us forward.