Christian, Neudel Reflect on Chauvin Guilty Verdict

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Photo illustration courtesy of BigStock.com

Natalie Kozhemiakin, Editor-in-Chief

The morning after former Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for the killing of George Floyd, administrators shared thoughts with the community about this historic verdict.

Director of Equity and Inclusion Jessica Christian and Upper School Head Joshua Neudel also shared their written remarks with The Gator, which are published below in full.


Director of Equity and Inclusion Jessica Christian.

Yesterday evening, when the verdict was read that Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts, accountability was served. Chauvin was held accountable. Don’t confuse this with justice, as only Floyd here and alive would indicate justice. But accountability is a step forward. Moments like this indicate that there is reason to believe that going forward, more folks who commit violent acts of racism and hate will be held accountable.

And I want each of you to hold on to that hope and have it motivate you. But you also need to act for justice. Being agents of change and justice means that we work to stamp out the roots of racism and hate so that these acts are prevented. Justice will prevail if when the petty crime of using a counterfeit bill in a store happens, there will be no need to worry that the perpetrator will be killed slowly in public on camera by law enforcement.

So, we can use the verdict from yesterday as an indication that justice is possible. And that can give us hope. But please know that many of us, especially those of us in communities of color and other marginalized groups, are experiencing a wave of emotions right now. Each time something like this is in the news, there is renewed trauma for many of us in under-represented populations, as we watch, yet again, to see how much value our lives will be given. There is some happiness, knowing that at least one person has been held accountable. But even in the span of this trial, there were more seemingly racially motivated deaths, and we’re left wondering where the justice is and whether or not there will be any accountability. Check in on your friends and students today.

Assume nothing other than that emotions may be raw and unpredictable right now. And maybe, if you’re a student, you just want to have a normal day, and you’re allowed to have that. But if you need an outlet to talk about the trial or what comes next or any of that, please let me, Ms. Luckett, Ms. Abodeely, or any trusted adult know. I hope you can enjoy the day and that you feel good being in our community today.


Upper School Head Joshua Neudel.

Yesterday, as I watched upper school students gathered on the field engaged in a conversation about the Derek Chauvin trial, I was reminded of another time a large group of US students gathered outside the building. It was April 20, 2018, three years to the date, that students organized a walkout in response to gun violence after the Parkland School shooting.

Tuesday provided moments of hope and a glimpse of a potentially more just and equitable future. The Chauvin verdict showed that there can be accountability when a black person is killed at the hand of a police officer; and that young people, like yourselves, choose engagement over apathy by showing up on the field to learn more about the legal system, to talk with teachers and other trusted adults, and do your own research to educate yourselves so you were well informed and prepared to think critically about the proceedings and their implications. 

Dr. Martin Luther King’s quote, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” feels aptly relevant today. The guilty verdict helps bend the arc a little more, but we are not there yet. 

It can feel frustrating and discouraging that large-scale change does not happen quickly. It’s been three years since the Brimmer walkout and Parkland Shooting, In 2021, according to the Gun Violence Archive there have been 147 mass shootings, with 24 in April. While there was accountability for George Floyd’s murder yesterday, just before the verdict a 15-year-old girl was shot and killed by police in Columbus, Ohio, we learned of the killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo a few days ago, and Daunte Wright was killed just miles from the trial in Minneapolis.

The arc of the moral universe is long, and every action we take helps continue to bend it closer to justice. Whether you are speaking up to support another person, writing an article for The Gator, choosing to learn more by attending lectures, reading books, and reading articles, attending a protest, or however you are choosing to confront hate, you are helping to bend the arc more towards justice and create a more equitable future. By doing so, by each action you take, you make the future a little brighter.