Social workers know that Derek Chauvin’s conviction is just the tip of a deep and dangerous iceberg

April 21, 2021

It’s no surprise that the guilty-on-all-counts verdict in the George Floyd/Derek Chauvin case has been burning up the media since it was announced yesterday afternoon. From what I’ve seen so far, the most common reaction is relief, an “exhalation” after a long stretch of nail-biting, hold-your-breath fear that yet another black-man-murdering cop would somehow evade accountability – accompanied, in this instance, by a well-grounded fear that a fresh round of protests across the nation (and very likely, the world) would explode.

But I expect that relief, let alone celebration, at the outcome of the case will be short-lived. And it should be. Not just because the shooting of black and brown bodies continues, though that is a reality horrendous enough in itself. The deeper and more endemic cause for continuing distress is that U.S. society has yet to reckon with the intersecting systemic issues that underlie, indeed guarantee, a continuation of oppressive policing of black and brown communities. Extensive precarity based on low-wage work and exploitative wealth extraction, disinvestment in schools and severe neglect of other sustaining community resources, a paucity of health and mental health services and a generally tattered social safety net, the voracious feeder demands of the carceral state – all serve as preconditions “justifying” social control via harsh policing of communities of color.

Social workers know only too well that systemic dysfunction lies at the base of persistent social issues, and so should press, and press unrelentingly hard, for deep-cutting, truly radical, reforms – not just reforms of policing, but of our failed social state in its entirety.

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