This transcription was generated by an automated service.
Good evening and welcome to "The Chauvin Verdict: A Community Discussion on Race, Crime & Justice." This week, we joined the rest of the world in reflecting on the conviction of a former police officer, Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.
Tonight's conversation is intended to provoke our thinking, promote our understanding, and help us contextualize the events of the last week. And considering the ramifications of this historic verdict, we must resolve to do our part to promote anti-racism as we travel together, the road to our nation's sacred promise of liberty and justice for all. And so, our conversation tonight is more than an academic exchange. It is rather a chance for each of us to better understand the role we can play going forward. At Dartmouth, we will continue, we will redouble our efforts to build a diverse and welcoming community that celebrates the talents and supports the success of every one of its members.
And in our role as a premier academic institution, we will continue to shed light on structural racism
through our scholarship and active engagement with the diverse perspectives that exist on our campus. Which brings me to tonight's virtual gathering. I am pleased to be joined by an impressive group of Dartmouth faculty. The first of whom is tonight's moderator Bruce Duthu. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1980, Bruce went on to law school and in 1991 joined the faculty of the Vermont Law School, where he was the founding director of the partnership in environmental law and energy policy. Bruce returned to Dartmouth in 2008 as a professor of native American studies.
Currently he chairs the Native American Studies program, which will become a department on July 1. Bruce is an expert on Federal Indian law and tribal sovereignty and a member of the United Houma Nation. He is the author of two books, American Indians and the Law and Shadow Nations, and Tribal Sovereignty, and the Limits of Legal Pluralism. Bruce has also written numerous book chapters and articles. He has taught as a visiting professor at universities in Italy and Australia and at the Harvard Law School. It is my great pleasure to present Bruce Duthu who will introduce the additional members of the panel. Bruce, over to you.
Bruce you're muted.
Can you all hear me now? Thank you. Thank you, Phil for that introduction. My apologies for not unmuting my computer here. It's a pleasure to welcome you all tonight for this community conversation on the Chauvin verdict and a discussion about race, crime, and justice in America. As many of you know, at noon today in Minneapolis, the family of Daunte Wright gathered with friends and supporters to pay their final respects. Where they gathered was just a few miles from where George Floyd was murdered nearly a year ago. And where many of us witnessed or saw portions of the trial that ended this week with verdicts of guilty. One of the eulogizers today at the Daunte Wright funeral focused attention on the police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright. And the eulogizer wondered what this police officer might have seen when she saw Daunte. He then broadened the question to ask, how does America see our children? He noted that when people like this officer see their own children, "They see their future, they see the best and the brightest that they have to give the world for the future."
And he concluded, "I submit to you America so do we, when we see our children."
Derek Chauvin saw George Floyd as a "sizable guy" who had to be controlled, who appeared to "be on something." We may never know with certainty how these police officers saw the individuals whose lives they took. We do know however that it's vitally important, that we ask questions like, how does America see our children?
Tonight, we have a distinguished panel of faculty panelists who will join us in this community conversation. All longtime friends and distinguished scholars in their own right. I'll introduce them as a group. I will then pose a series of about three questions for the panel, following which we will turn to the audience's questions. And that portion will be moderated by our colleague, Justin Anderson.
Our panelists tonight, Deborah King, professor of sociology, earned her PhD from Yale University. She has affiliations with African and African American studies and women, gender, and sexuality studies. Professor King's areas of expertise include the sociology of law, the study of prisons, African-American women, race, class, and gender, and the study of deviance and social control.
Susan Brison is professor of philosophy, earned her PhD at the University of Toronto. And her areas of expertise include the philosophy of law, social and political philosophy, feminist ethics, trauma theory, hate speech and freedom of expression and gender-based violence.
And finally, among our newest colleagues at Dartmouth, Professor Matt Delmont in the history department whose PhD is from Brown University. Matt brings expertise in the study of African American history and the history of civil rights, television, popular culture, and media. I think all three are expertly equipped to help guide us in this discussion tonight. My first question to the panelists draws from their personal experiences and perspectives. And my question to each of you is to share with the audience tonight, your reaction to hearing this week's verdicts in the Derek Chauvin trial. I'll start with Professor King.
Good evening everyone. And thank you, President Hanlon, and Bruce Duthu. I watched much of the trial and the closing arguments as much as my schedule would allow. And fortunately, my classes and meetings and seminars ended just in time to await guardedly the decision on Derek Chauvin's trial and to listen as the report from the jury stated guilty, guilty, guilty. My experience was of relief, but not jubilation, of acknowledgement but not celebration. From my life experiences, I understood that for me and that for the nation, that this was not a historic moment or a transformative decision.
I think perhaps the state's attorney, Keith Ellison said it best when he said that this trial was about accountability and not about justice. Now let me be clear. Accountability is crucial if we're talking about the questions of equal protection of the law, let alone the concepts and ideas of justice. And certainly, we are appreciative and thankful and recognize the importance of Darnella Frazier's video and of Black Lives Matters and of the millions who demonstrated in cities and states and nations around the world. Those are all important. And I don't want to diminish the importance of them. Those victories, no matter how limited in scope, for me simply mean that we must stay the course and staying the course means that any victory is not a condition or any indication of the movement or where we want to go.
As an African-American woman, a participant in social activists and a scholar of law in society, I have learned that one's endurance and commitment cannot rest on external conditions. I believe in hope and prayer and action. But those must go on regardless of any single trial, outcome, or piece of legislation. Irrespective of whether the outcome is—in quotes—"favorable" or not. Re-imagining a criminal justice system, creating a more just system, necessitates resilience, resistance, and faith, the evidence of things not seen. Thank you.
Thank you very much Professor King. Susan Brison, your reactions.
Thank you. I'm just so honored to be here with Professor Deborah King who has taught me so much in my entire time at Dartmouth. I could go on about this a lot, and I'm so glad that Matt Delmont is now with us as well.
I wasn't expecting Derek Chauvin to be found guilty on all three charges. I was surprised, I was relieved, but I was not cheering or celebrating as the prosecuting attorney himself said in closing arguments on Monday, "This was not a prosecution of the police. It was a prosecution of the defendant. The systematic racism at the root of policing and mass incarceration in this country wasn't addressed in this trial." And I suspect that to most white people, this was in no way an anti-police verdict. It was a pro-police verdict, and it will be taken by many as a sign that justice has been done, that the system is working, but this verdict will not on its own, obviously, bring about the very significant changes to law enforcement so urgently needed in this country.
Although this verdict was highly unusual, Derek Chauvin's murder of George Floyd is not the anomaly that the prosecution made it out to be, since testimony in the trial began on March 29, at least 64 more people, more than half of whom were black or Latinx were killed by police officers. A 20-year-old African American, Daunte Wright, was fatally shot by a white officer and a traffic stop just 10 miles from the courthouse. And about 20 minutes before the Chauvin verdict was announced on Tuesday, a 16-year-old black girl, Makia Bryant was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer in Franklin County, Ohio, which has one of the highest rates of fatal police shootings in the US.
I think it's a terrible idea to expect law enforcement to handle social issues, homelessness, poverty, unemployment, mental illness, discipline in schools, drug addiction, among others that can only be resolved in other ways. We need to put an end to policing as we know it and replace it with a system that at least has the potential to truly serve and protect everyone in our communities rather than terrorizing all too many of us.
Thank you very much. Matt Delmont?
Thanks Bruce. Like my colleagues, I want to start by thanking President Hanlon and Bruce for helping to organize the panel. It's a real pleasure to have a chance to share thoughts, same thing with professors Brison and King, folks whose work I respect a great deal.
Like Susan and Deborah said, my first thoughts were relief and surprise. I was relieved that the jury found Derek Chauvin guilty. I was surprised that they did. We've seen so many cases from Rodney King to the present where video evidence would seem to guarantee that police would be found guilty, but in too many cases there hasn't been accountability. I'm relieved for George Floyd's family that they got some measure of justice, but I know that the problems are much bigger than Derek Chauvin and Minneapolis Police Department.
Immediately after hearing the verdict, the first person I thought about was Darnella Frazier, the 17-year-old who filmed the final minutes of George Floyd's life. She testified at the trial that she was on her way to a convenience store with her nine-year-old cousin on Memorial Day when she saw Derek Chauvin arresting and then slowly killing George Floyd. Frazier's video was not the first to capture evidence of police violence against black people. And it almost certainly will not be the last, but in this case, the video had a catalyzing effect. Without Frazier's video, it's difficult to imagine that George Floyd's murder would have sparked protests across the country and around the globe. The video is also a key piece of evidence in the trial and certainly played a role in the jury's guilty verdict. Frazier said that she was traumatized by what you saw outside of Cup Foods in Minneapolis on a day.
And after the video went viral, she faced harassment online that continues to this day. I saw it yesterday morning that she said that she felt joy and relief after hearing the verdict and felt that George Floyd and his family had received justice. I share the sense of relief at the verdict, but I do also want to hold space for Frazier and all the other witnesses of police violence for what they must deal with mentally and emotionally after the new cycle has moved on. I think what strikes me is just the scope and magnitude of these police killings that we've seen over years and years and how people will have to live with them even after the names leave the headlines.
Thank you very much, Matt. My second question, I'm going to ask you to draw on your perspectives and experiences as scholars in sociology and philosophy and history, and some of you have already started that conversation, which is to reflect on the deeper or broader meanings of both the trial and its verdict. We've all heard commentators who have offered perspectives on well, this reveals the limits of the legal system and maybe the limits of law in the way that it focuses on the individual and not on systemic issues like racism and so forth. Others who have often used the phrase, we have more work to do without really pausing to say, who's the we, and what's the work that lies ahead. And even others are asking deeper and more profound questions about, well, what is justice? What does it look like in these kinds of contexts? And so, for each of you, I'd like you to reflect on any or all of those themes within and on through your perspectives as scholars of sociology and philosophy and history. And I'll go back to Professor King to kick this one off.
Thank you, Bruce. I think I'll begin by talking about the Rodney King case and the result of the trial of the four police officers who were accused with assaulting him with a deadly weapon. And recall for all of you who are too young ... Well, to recall for those of you who are old enough to know what that time period was like, for those of you who are too young to know how confident everyone was that that crude videotape of his assault on an interstate highway, by Los Angeles County Police officers would absolutely demonstrate and confirm African-Americans claims of abuse and disrespect by police officers. And I also recall how stunned everyone was when the four police officers whose trial was moved outside of Los Angeles County to Simi Valley were found not guilty. And if you have an opportunity to go back and look at that trial and particularly of the defense and the brilliant desegregation of the video to explain why each of the hit to the sticks and the kicks that they inflicted up on Rodney King were "justified" from the perspective of a reasonable police officer.
Then you might understand why I said and see hearing the verdict, I was not surprised and was sort of guarded about what it might be. But one of the things, because I also had the opportunity of catching much of the trial that was significantly different in this case, in contrast to almost all of the other cases where the police officers have been charged and have gone to trial and some of them who've actually been convicted. One of the things that stood out for me was literally the brilliance of the prosecution and we don't want it to underscore, we don't want to diminish the resources it took, both financially, but also the legal brain power that created that particular defense. 38 witnesses of experts were called including not only medical examiners and forensic chemist and pulmonologists and toxicologists, but most importantly, most critical for this case were the eight people who were involved in law enforcement who testified, including the chief of police.
And what they did in contrast to the parallel of what the defense did in the Rodney King case, was to talk about the standards of what police refer to as the continuum of force and the ways in which the application of force by Chauvin outside of one, the perspective of a reasonable police officer in that point in time was a disproportional to the situation that those were techniques that he was not trained. Although individual police departments grant a great deal of variability in what types of force police might use to gain control of a suspect or defendant or a witness, that those were all outside of all of those things. And that finally, for the EMS and the other officers to say, and that as a police officer, he had a duty if he saw that he was in medical distress to administer aid.
What was critical here, and many talk about the blue line and the blue line not breaking. I don't want to save that these law enforcement officials weren't necessarily breaking the blue line, but it's certainly a situation in which they defended the blue line, that the particulars of this case, in terms of George Floyd's murdered by the police officer was a step too far, even in the time when most video tapes had made absolutely no difference in terms of whether police officers are charged and if they're charged whether or not they're found guilty. For me as a student of law and one who studies the police force, one of the things I think that's important as we begin sort of thinking about this question of what the types of changes are we might want to see in policing, the discussions about public safety as opposed to crime control, the concerns about we've given the police an impossible mandate with too many things that they're not trained to do.
For me, it's not just merely the question of what do we envision policing to be. But I think that it's critically important that the scholarship, the analysis and understanding of policing in a context of the entire criminal justice system, which deals with prosecutors, which deals with state and federal legislators, which deals with financing, which deals with the politicization of that entire system requires our careful and serious scholar from multiple disciplines.
And that the big question confronting us is how do we make those changes. And to the extent that we haven't yet, and the we I'm referring to is partly scholars. But I think particularly for those who are social justice advocates, to the extent that we believe that simply saying that racism is the cause, doesn't give us the tools we need for making the change and that so many of the proposals about changing the police, making them more accountable, making them more just, are often reacting to the popular culture's presentation of policing. That's why, and I'll just close with this. That's why for many who were involved in Black Lives Matter, the idea that body cams capturing that video was going to be sufficient to get the job done, that you really need to appreciate and understand police organization and structure internally, policing culture and training, but also the much broader political social and economic New York in which policing operates.
Thank you very much. Professor Brison. I think you're muted.
My apologies. I'm going to make this a lot briefer than I had planned because I really want to also allow time for questions. I watched all eight hours of the closing arguments on Monday. And many things struck me. I mean, one of the things that I was stunned by first was the prosecution. I think they did a brilliant job. They spent so much time devoting so much time to prove that George Floyd was a person, a human being, as if that were necessary, but it is necessary. But what I want to focus on is, while I understood the prosecution strategy, they had to make Chauvin out to be a monster or at least a bad apple. In another wise well-functioning system. I think that that frame was just too narrow. There were three other officers involved, Thomas Lane and Alexandra Kueng, Tou Thao.
They have been charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder and aiding and abetting second degree manslaughter, and they'll stand trial together in August. This isn't over. It's never over. The crime committed wasn't just Derek Chauvin keeping his knee of Mr. Floyd's neck. What was it? What happened? So, this is a quick, highly abbreviated recap. Mr. Floyd went into the store, allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes, got back into his car, sat there. Police were called, officer Lane and Kueng approached the car. Lane tapped on the car window with his flashlight and asked Mr. Floyd to show his hands. After being asked several times to open the door. Mr. Floyd did while apologizing. Six seconds after the door opened, Lane drew his gun, pointed it at Mr. Floyd's head, inches away from his face and shouted, "Puts your effing hands on right now." Without explaining the reason for Mr. Floyd's arrest or for his own severely violent behavior. He pulled Mr. Floyd out of the car.
Lane and Kueng cuff. Mr. Floyd's hands behind his back, walked into the restaurant wall where he sat down. Mr. Floyd was at no point violent, was clearly in distress. Two officers moved him across the street to their vehicle as they got to the car and Mr. Floyd fell to the ground. They tried to get him into the back seat of the squad car. The officers owned body cam videos of what happened next were excruciating to watch. And most of these were shown actually by the defense. Mr. Floyd was handcuffed, and he wasn't a threat. He wasn't violent, but he didn't want to get into the back seat of the squad car. This was before Chauvin arrived on the scene. It looked like a little cage. It was a little cage.
He explained that he had anxiety. It was claustrophobic. He was in crisis. You can see him trying to work up the ability to get into the car, but he couldn't bring himself to get in. He kept repeating I'm claustrophobic. An officer said, "You aren't going to win." Mr. Floyd said, "I'm not trying to win." Why would any black men get into the backseat of a cop car after being threatened with a gun for no apparent reason? But one of the first things I learned in a women's self-defense class is, you're being assaulted by someone, they say, okay, just do what I want, and you'll be Just get into the car. Don't get into the car. I mean, if somebody indicates that they have no respect for your personhood, and they're going to brutalize you one way or another, you don't listen to them. You don't take it at their word that you're going to be okay.
They shoved him into the car. It wasn't necessary to shove him into the car, but around this time, officers Chauvin and Tou arrived. And we don't know why, but Chauvin pulled him out of the car. Mr. Floyd said, "Thank you." He said thank you. He was polite throughout. He called the officers, sir. The struggle was over. Mr. Floyd was handcuffed on his knees. They pushed him onto the ground, into the prone recovery position, a position that sometimes used, but only temporarily to get someone under control, but he was already under control. But after describing these events, showing videos at every stage, the prosecuting attorney said, "This is where the excessive force begins." Where it begins.
The defense attorney argued. We need to broaden our frame here. We need to look at what happened before those nine and a half minutes. He meant we need to look at what the other officers were doing. I mean, only Chauvin was on trial here, not the other officers. But I agree completely. We need to broaden the frame. But we need to look at what happened at the very founding of our nation. We need to look at the origins of the police in the south as slave patrols. We need to broaden the frame considerably.
Thank you very much. Matt Delmont?
Thanks Bruce. I think for me, the question that keeps coming back to my mind is, what was this case about? That can't just be about Derek Chauvin, it can't just be about the Minneapolis Police. The scope of the problem is actually absolutely huge. It's been going on for generations and generations. Just since 2015, the Washington Post estimates that the police have shot and killed 5,000 people in total across racial groups. Of course, the context of those cases is complicated and there's different scenarios in each one, but that's a tremendous loss of life at the hands of police. As Susan mentioned, at least 64 people were killed by police in the US over the course of the trial. It's an average of three people each day. And it's tremendously difficult to get accountability in these cases.
The other question I keep getting asked is, is this a turning point? And I think on the negative side, I think there's reasons to be cautious in overstating the impact of this. If you look at police accountability, we have a recent example that would or just to be cautious. In 2014, Chicago Police shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, and then attempted to cover up the incident. After the video of the shooting was released, there were protests demanding accountability. The mayor at the time appointed a task force to study the department, the department of justice investigated the Chicago Police just as they're planning to investigate the Minneapolis Police now and found that a culture of excessive violence existed in Chicago. The officer who fired the 16 shots named Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2018.
The most recent high-profile case that we have before George Floyd, at least one of the most recent high-profile cases, there was an officer was found guilty of murder. But this obviously wasn't the turning point in Chicago. Less than a month ago, Chicago Police shot and killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo. And so, I think from that perspective, we have reasons to be cautious about thinking this is going to be a turning point. But if it will be a turning point, it will be because of the work that people do every day. As Deborah mentioned, whether you're looking at the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and '60s or looking at Black Lives Matter and affiliated movements today. Activism is about what's happening on the ground daily. I think if we have a sense of hope or optimism, that's where it comes from is that people are fighting for different futures that they're trying to create different systems that would truly value black lives, truly make our country a better place and a more equitable place for all people. If we actually think this is going to be a turning point moment, it's really up to the citizens to make it. Thanks.
Thank you very much, Matt. I've got one last question for each of the panelists. I'm going to see if we can do this within say a window of 30 seconds to a minute. But I'm going to ask you to draw on your experiences and perspectives as teachers. You are all fantastic teachers. Here you're speaking directly to your students. What would you like your students to take away from this week's outcome? And go back to Professor King.
What is most important to me as a teacher is assisting my students in critical reasoning. And for me it means for them to always challenge the definition of what the problem is. And in so much of this particular case, it was framed around black male lives matter. And I want to suggest that if our understanding of police use of force is constrained to that particular model as what we're trying to solve, then we're missing the fact that proportionately more native Americans are killed by police than our black and Latinx people. We're missing the fact that other agencies of force and law enforcement such as ICE are also engaged in perpetrating violence.
And that we're also missing the fact that much of the violence of police and misuse of force that police are engaged in do not result in deaths. And particularly if we're thinking from the perspective of women, a lot of it is sexual assault. A lot of it occurs in domestic settings with those who had mental illness and other types of crises. We have to begin with being really clear about what our definition of the problem is.
Thank you. Professor Brison?
Thank you. So much to say. I want to say that we as academics and our students who study the disciplines that we introduced them to such as philosophy should take some time to look at the origins of their own disciplines. I recommend a wonderful book that Kimberlé Crenshaw co-edited called, Seeing Race Again, in which she and the co-editors traced the histories of these disciplines that we know now, virtually all of which were founded under white supremacy with colonialist attitudes. I mean, I teach at a department that before I arrived, didn't ever had a tenured woman. It has never had a tenure track professor of color in its entire history. Why is that? What can we do about that? I think we need to interrogate what we're doing here at Dartmouth. We need to confront our nation's history. We need to confront the history of our disciplines. John Locke, not only defended chattel slavery, he invested in the slave trade himself and the you can't believe that humanity is at its perfection in the white race.
He rejected a claim and African on the grounds that, "The fellow was quite black from head to foot, a clear proof that what he said was stupid." I am not saying we shouldn't I read, I value, I teach Locke and Kant. I really like Aristotle who said horrifically misogynistic things about women. That's not my point. My point is that if we want the academy to be truly inclusive and diverse, we need to look at the origins of our own disciplines, the sociology of our disciplines, who got to speak, whose voices were listened to and valued. Thanks.
Thank you. And Matt Delmont.
I would just emphasize for students the importance of looking at the evidence that you're presented in the classroom. I think as Professor King mentioned the importance of looking from different disparate perspectives to really get an understanding of how complex and real these issues are. But in a case the George Floyd murder, if you get the Minneapolis Police Department's initial public statement about what happened it's a very innocent looking document. There's no reference to violence. It seems like the police did the job as they were meant to do. And that was what they released before the video came out.
That's true today. It's been true, historically. The police are not inclined to tell the truth about what actually happened. And that makes it really difficult to understand the scope and the magnitude of these issues, both in the present and historically that you have to go to find different sources like black newspapers and other sources that are willing to tell the truth about what's actually going on because the official record is often just perpetuating a set of lies and untruths about kind of violence is taking place. The emphasis on evidence I think is paramount.
Thank you very much, Matt. I thank you all for your very, very thoughtful responses. I will now bring in our colleague, Justin Anderson and team who have been monitoring the chat and your questions coming in. Justin, welcome to the program and share with our panelists the questions that have been coming in.
Thank you very much, Professor Duthu. And it's wonderful to be here with all of you. I'm so pleased that I get to play even a small part in tonight's discussion. I'm just going to dive in because we've got a number of questions that have come in and they're quite good. I'd like to start with Professor King if I can. This viewer writes in, in the wake of the Chauvin verdict, George Floyd's brother Philonise, compared his brother George's death to that of Emmett Till's murder 60 years ago. People forgot about him, but he was the first George Floyd Philonise said. Professor King, how do you think about the meaning of George Floyd's death as an historical event. And do you think that 60 years from now someone could say, "People will forget George Floyd?"
Well, I think this is really a question for Professor Delmont.
Should we bring in Professor Delmont?
But let me say, we often forget the marginalized and don't remember them. And so, 60 years from now, yes. I would say we will have forgotten.
Wow. Well, since you invoked Professor Delmont, I'm going to bring Professor Delmont in and I'm going to allow him to weigh in on that question. I have another question for you, also Professor Delmont, but I would love to hear what you think about that particular question.
Thanks, Justin. I'll maybe respectfully take a different approach from Professor King. I think this is the kind of thing that's going to show up in our history textbooks four or five, six decades down the road. I think Emmett Till's absolutely there, the Rodney King verdict and the subsequent Elliot rebellion is there. I'm reasonably confident I had to put money on it that George Floyd, the massive protest from the summer of 2020 is there. I think the important question is, when we remember these names, what do we remember? It can't just be remembering a single case of suffering as horrible as it was for Emmett Till or other winching victims or for George Floyd. But it has to be remembering and understanding both the deeper structures that were at play, but also the massive number of people who were involved in these protests, in the case of George Floyd.
And part of the reason there's such a groundswell of protest in 2020 was because just going back to the prior eight years, Trayvon Martin in 2012, Michael Brown, 2014, that there had been dozens and dozens of these high-profile cases and the kind of subsequent organizing and building an infrastructure around it. And so, I guess my worry is that George Floyd might be in the history textbooks five decades from now, but if we don't understand it as nearly a solid decade of continuous non-stop activism all across the country and really all around the world, then we won't really understand what that name means. And so, I think that's the equivalent of forgetting the name. It doesn't do me any good to remember a name if you don't remember what actually the name was four.
Can we ask Professor Brison to weigh in? I love that question. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that as well before going back to Justin.
Professor Brison, you're muted.
I'm sorry. I'm happy to pass to the next question. I didn't have anything in particular.
Okay. Thank you. Back to you, Justin.
Sure. Professor Delmont, if I could stay with you, because this question is in reference to something you said earlier. You mentioned the importance of the video, of the cell phone video that captured the killing which led to the murder conviction. Likewise, Professor King mentioned the brilliance of the prosecution and the legal brain power that was brought to bear in this case. How do we account for these kinds of things moving forward? There's not always going to be cell phone video. There's not always going to be a powerful legal team. Not everyone is going to have the legal dream team. How do we account for this moving forward or how do you think about this moving forward and what should we do about that?
It's a good question, Justin. I think it really is a constellation of forces and I certainly don't want to suggest that a video in of itself is going to bring justice. We've seen too many cases since Rodney King, that that's the case. And I should say for myself, I haven't even watched the video. I'm actually troubled by the repetition of these videos. And I worry that the more times we replay these instances of black suffering and black death that it has diminishing returns and it's deeply harmful for black Americans to be confronted with these issues and have that be presented as the only aspects of our history or our present that we're going to be shared in the mainstream. But what I think videos can do is it can force more people within city government, police departments, they have to pay attention to this. And so I think within Minneapolis, for example, it puts pressure on the attorneys to bring the case. I think Minnesota is somewhat unique in having Keith Ellison in that role. It puts pressure on police chiefs to, as Deborah was saying, to actually enforce a code of conduct in a meaningful way among their officers.
And I think Minneapolis is somewhat unique in having a reform minded black police chief who put in place some of the measures that allowed that blue wall of silence to get broken down or at least adapted. I think videos can play a part in forcing these conversations to not be kind of swept under the rug to force police departments to actually tell the truth more often, but by themselves, they won't bring justice. And I do worry that the repetition of them can have some very negative effects as well.
Professor Brison, I love to get you to weigh in on this question. Although if it's a question you'd rather toss to someone else, perhaps Bruce, who is not taking questions you can pass it to Bruce.
Okay. No, I would like to say something about this, about the videos, because I agree completely. I agree completely with Matt that this constant viewing of black people being brutalized is so damaging for so many reasons. I didn't watch the trial. I didn't watch even the original video of the nine and a half minutes because I'd been invited to say something about this. I did watch the eight hour closing arguments. And what struck me was the defense attorney was showing all these videos of what happened before those nine and a half minutes. What happened before Derek Chauvin was on the scene and it was excruciating, it was just brutalizing. And he was saying, and the prosecution seemed to be going along with it. This was okay, this wasn't excessive. From that first moment when Officer Lane pointed that pistol, a few inches away from Mr. Floyd's face and shouted at him, "Put you're effing hands up." This is excessive force. He didn't even know what he was being accused of. There was absolutely no need for this level of brutality. That's just my comment about that.
Professor King, this is a question that is addressed directly to you. I'm going to ask it and I'd love to hear what you have to say, I'm not going to be upset if Matt or Susan want to weigh in as well. Professor King, moments after the guilty verdict, Derek Chauvin was hauled off to prison where, according to the New York Times this morning, he is in solitary confinement. I immediately thought of how inhumane solitary confinement is. And broadly began to think about how we can situate the Chauvin trial within broader discourses around envisioning a new criminal justice system, namely prison abolishment. How do we reconcile our desire to justice in this particular case and so many others with prison abolition discourses? And this is from Jordan Michael Terry from the class of 2015.
Hello, Jordan. Well, and I think it's important to state why he was placed in solitary confinement, and it really is for her protective reasons. The conditions of solitary confinement are used, unfortunately for a variety of different reasons that I don't want to diminish the impact, but certainly a former police officer in general populations is clearly a situation that would also be untenable in terms of our concerns about the protections of law. And then one-to-one is in police custody or the penal state. You are technically the responsibility of that state. I am also one who says, yes, we must find ways of changing the penal system and the criminal justice system. I think that the project of thinking about abolition is useful to help us sort of re-imagine alternatives, but I'm not one who will go so far as to say that we will have to totally eliminate someone who has some of the functions of police and that we may not also have to change.
And that we may also have some forms of confinement that we might think are appropriate under different conditions, different penalties in the future. I don't know that we are yet at the point where we can sort of envision that occurring and that some of the things that abolition is talking about, if we eliminate poverty and inequalities and injustices, that that will reduce criminal behavior and conduct, it'll reduce some of it, but not all of it.
Can I jump in here? I was struck by, in watching these closing arguments, the fact that it was not possible in a trial, in which somebody has been accused of murder or manslaughter to ask any of these larger questions. And this is something that bothers me about the criminal justice system in general. Some of you know that in 1990, I was raped by a stranger in France and beaten strangled left for dead at the bottom of a ravine. There was a trial. I was very fortunate I had tons of unearned credibility because of the circumstance. It was broad daylight. I was wearing baggy jeans and a sweatshirt. All of that. I was believed about what happened during the 45 minutes that I had been nearly murdered. What I was not able to bear witness to and what is what I wanted to bear witness to, and what I still want to bear witness to is something that is goes far beyond me.
To me, it actually was almost irrelevant. What happened to my individual perpetrator? I was relieved. I wasn't celebrating, but I was relieved that he was sentenced to jail for 10 years, relieved too that this was in France and not in the US where God knows what might've happened to him. But I'm not a retributivists. I did not want him to suffer. I did not want to do experience pain. I was convinced that he had done to other women before what he was doing to me, and that he would do it again, and that it would be a good thing to get him off the streets so that it wouldn't happen to other women. That was my only motivation. Okay. But I was not able to bear witness to the larger problem of gender-based violence.
In this particular trial of Derek Chauvin, it was not possible for anyone to bear witness to the larger problem of white supremacy, of racist violence, of the legacy of slavery and slave patrols continuing into the present and in some modern police forces. There are real limits to what criminal justice can do. When the question is, did he do this thing to him or her on that particular occasion? Yes or no. That isn't going to solve the problems that we need to solve. But in the case of gender-based violence, what is it about how we socialize, boys and girls that leads this stuff, that is not going to be resolved by criminal trials. Also the harm, the harm to not just the black community, but to all of us witnessing this brutality that our police are inflicting on people. It's not something that is going to be captured by a criminal trial of this sort. I'm very aware of the limitations of using the criminal justice system to solve these massive systemic problems.
Thank you, Susan for jumping in to address that question and thank you for sharing some of your history. I appreciate hearing that. We have time for one more question. I would actually love to hear any and all of you who would like to respond to this because it's an interesting question. An acquaintance is a retired cop who doesn't see that American policing is rooted in racism. This is a common thread of people that don't admit to our country's systemic racism. I'm looking for ideas on how to address this type of thinking in a positive way, in a community way, in a personal way. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
I say, watch the brilliant video that Ava DuVernay produced and directed about the 13th amendment. Others?
Matt or Deborah, any suggestions for this?
Professor King may be frozen. Oh, no.
I'll give it a shot. I mean, I appreciate the sentiment from where this question's coming from. And I think it is worthwhile to make good faith efforts when people want to be reached the once we've spoken to. I will say at the outset, not everyone is reachable. And so I think you can offer resources or books by Elizabeth Hinton resource and Gilmore, work by our colleague Deborah King others. There's no shortage of work that would give people all of the kinds of evidence they might need to understand this. I think if someone isn't interested in understanding it, there are things that any of us can do as teachers to help people see that light. I think a different approach to it for this individual might be to focus less on the question of, do you understand policing to be structurally racist, then what would it mean for police to function in a way that is supported by the community?
And if I was in law enforcement right now, that'd be my main concern is that I think they're losing a public relations war among large numbers of the community about what it means to actually be working in support. And if you start to lose the more kind of middle of the road folks who don't encounter police on a day-to-day basis, you have a professional crisis. As a former retired cop, I think that would be my particular worry. I think another approach that can sometimes be discussable, people who are not motivated or moved by the killings of black Americans and others as they should be. These cases are extraordinarily expensive for taxpayers. Chicago has paid tens of millions of dollars to settle cases of police violence out of court. That even if you don't care about issues of systemic racism, that should upset you that the police are exercising excessive force to the extent that it's costing sums and sums of money. But I think overall making a good faith effort sharing the resources that are available, but recognizing some people aren't always ready to hear the truth about things.
Great points, Matt. As I said, that was about all the time we have for questions. I want to thank each of you, Professor Brison, Professor King and Professor Delmont for joining us. That was so interesting. And certainly, I very much appreciated the opportunity to get to hear all of you weigh in on these issues. But I'm going to send it back to Bruce Duthu. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Justin. And let me add my thanks to our panelists, professors King, Brison, and Delmont. I also want to thank President Hanlon for joining us tonight to open the program and to provost Joe Hillbilly who initially reached out to me and to our panelists to help organize this entire event and to have us prepared in light of a verdict that came quite early. For all the students who are out there listening, and I hope if you've not joining us tonight, you might have a chance to see the recording down the road. I do hope that this will spark a desire and an interest for further conversations, perhaps within the house community settings, within your own social groups, wherever you feel comfortable putting some of these issues and going through some of these questions amongst your own peer group.
And I think that that would be a very productive and perhaps even uplifting exercise to draw closer to your own sense of grounding and values perspectives, and maybe even a sense of hope for a better future. For all of us here who joined us, and for those of you out there, thank you very much for making time to pause and to give some thought to this important point in our history. We wish you well stay well and healthy and a good night.
Thank you, Bruce.