By Father Casey
Nearly one year after we all first watched the video of George Floyd dying beneath the knee of former police officer Derek Chauvin, our nation held its breath this week as three verdicts were announced: guilty, guilty. guilty.
There have been many occasions in the last year when I realized my whole body had been tense for days, and this was certainly another. We were a nation on edge, waiting to hear what the jury would decide, wondering if the killing of a man for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill would be tolerated, as so many previous killings of black men and women have been. But in this case, thanks to the bravery of one teenage girl with a cellphone, there was a nine-minute video that has been etched into all our imaginations and its witness proved incontrovertible.
I’ve watched the exultations of the crowds outside the courthouse in Minneapolis, and in other places around the country, and listened to many people speak of their gladness at the verdict. But I think we are all feeling more than one, single emotion. It is more like relief than happiness, for as priest and theologian Esau McCauley has written, “‘happy’ is the wrong word when a life has been lost. Juries can’t raise the dead. One court case can’t eradicate the distrust that lingers in the hearts of many Black and brown Americans. A single decision is important, but it can’t fix a system. There is still work to do. Mr. Floyd’s family may have some measure of peace, but he was taken from them nonetheless.”
Perhaps what we’re all feeling is the tension between our thanks that the truth has been vindicated in a court of law, and our sadness that, at best, it is an incomplete sort of justice. Zac Davis, writing for the Jesuit magazine America, commented,
“Herein lies the problem, the restlessness we feel when we are told this is justice. Justice implies true restoration, and there is no way to restore George Floyd’s life or any of the lives robbed by white supremacy. So we are left to settle for this version of justice. What does this justice mean for George Floyd? What does this justice mean for Adam Toledo? For Breonna Taylor? For Trayvon Martin? For Emmett Till? What does this justice offer the dead? This justice might be American justice, but it is not God’s justice.”
But what is God’s justice? I would not presume to declare it, and anyone who lays claim to knowing the mind of God in such situations is mistaken. We believe God to be inherently just, and God’s Kingdom is a realm in which justice is realized at all times and in all circumstances, but we do not yet live fully in that realm, and so our experiences of justice remain imperfect. We can be relieved that a killer has been found accountable in the eyes of the law, but we have a long way to go before “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream (Amos 5:24).”
So, while we can take encouragement from this instance in which a deadly wrong was rebuked, we must carry on with the work of making it more on earth as it is in heaven. We must continue in our baptismal covenant to resist evil, because, as Fr. McCauley writes, “resistance in a seemingly impossible scenario is a deep act of faith. It is a belief that God is not limited by our insufficiency, but perhaps might even be glorified through using limited human instruments for his purposes.”
“We must continue,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached this week, “until no human child of God is treated less than a child of God, until everybody is treated as God’s somebody, until this world and our communities are beloved communities, where there’s plenty good room for all of God’s children. This is our work. This is our task. This is our struggle.”
 Esau McCauley, “How I’m Talking to My Kids About the Derek Chauvin Verdict,” New York Times, April 20, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/20/opinion/derek-chauvin-verdict-floyd.html.
 Zac Davis, “This Is Not God’s Justice,” America: The Jesuit Review, April 21, 2021, https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/04/21/derek-chauvin-trial-george-floyd-justice-240509.