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The Derek Chauvin trial is walking a line between justice and further trauma

The Derek Chauvin trial is walking a line between justice and further trauma

The Derek Chauvin trial is walking a line between justice and further trauma
April 16
11:00 2021

As I began writing this piece, I received five notifications from the New York Times app regarding the Derek Chauvin trial. It even has its own category. The news subjects I have the privilege of parsing through range from politics to business, to the unjust murder of a Black man. 

In a way, this is what mass media taking accountability for our racist country looks like. It looks like an entire team at a paper giving us daily updates on a murder that sparked protests and more police violence across the nation. The last thing that I want is for this trial to not be observed by the public or for the results to be swept under the rug as they are announced. However, I don’t know if it’s good or not that it’s happening in this way.

To preface before I go any further, I am not Black. When it comes to racial or ethnic discrimination, my experience is nothing compared to the violence faced by Black people across the country. The worst racism I’ve felt has been people failing to pronounce my name correctly, and the occasional comment from white people on how I’m well-spoken. If I step out of line here, please know that it was never my intention to do so. 

On my Twitter timeline starting on March 29, I would see headlines from the case, mostly about different witness testimonies that were given. Listening through the actual testimony was gut-wrenching. It’s hard to understate the brutality of Floyd’s murder. And something about the nature of how these clips of people on the witness stand breaking down doesn’t sit right with me.

I know that to a degree this was due to the wrongful nature of Floyd’s murder. His death was yet another horrible example of the oppression that Black people feel in every part of their lives. As a non-Black ally, it’s harrowing to see someone go through that and a grim reminder of the violent ways our country is encouraged to operate. Yet for me, this was not the part that didn’t seem right. 

These clips of witness testimonies are edited with sharp graphics that can catch a viewer’s eye. The New York Times’ section over Chauvin’s trial is very carefully edited with almost daily updates. The people who are reporting on this trial and distributing it to the public know that thousands of people will make a point to try and stay updated. Those same news companies know that with a lot of eyes comes a lot of money in advertising revenue. To me, the huge amount of reporting and media buzz feels like a cash grab from the news companies reporting on it.

I know that the point of Derek Chauvin’s trial is not to make money off of its publicity. The point of a trial should be to restore justice to the victim, and in this case, the victim’s family. Even though a full criminal trial has never been filmed in the state of Minnesota, the judge for Derek Chauvin’s trial has allowed TV cameras into the courtroom. While one can argue that this is a case that the public is invested in and that broadcasting the trial can allow for the public to hold the justice system accountable, I don’t view the polished news pages as happy accidents.

Whatever the outcome of this murder trial is, the result will still be some degree of trauma, especially for Black Americans. If we have a firsthand view of the trial as it concludes, everyone watching will be able to participate in that moment of history. However, I don’t know if this accountability is worth the monetization of the grief and trauma of Black people in the U.S.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Javi Cavazos Weems

Javi Cavazos Weems

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