I had to pull my car over because the tears were blurring my vision. As the judge read the verdict reached by the jurors, I couldn’t help but feel sobs rise through my chest. In that instant, I thought of the protests I marched in through the streets of Chicago— the hours of walking in the sticky Midwestern heat, shouting for justice and equity. I thought of my friends and family, and my upbringing in East San Jose, where dusty gang tattoo removal ads hung on the chain-linked fence outside the baseball field of my old high school.
I thought of Angelo Quinto, a young Filipino-American man who met the same fate as George Floyd at the hands of the police late last year after police officers allegedly pinned his neck for roughly 5 minutes while pleading for his life. He, like my father, was a US Navy veteran. He, like me, was a young, brown-skinned Filipino-American from the Bay Area. At the height of AAPI hate in this country, his death at the hands of those intended to protect him felt like an amalgamation of the traumas brought on by this past year. I wondered if he and his family would find themselves able to hold accountable those responsible for his death.
The verdict reached on Tuesday represented more than just one man’s penance for a singular moment in time. This verdict represented a moment that an entity that seemed untouchable, whose “thin blue line” divided them from the community they were intended to serve, and whose roots are steeped in historical racism and brutality, was finally being held liable for it’s wrong doing. In this one instance, anyway.
With the rate at which we see these police brutality cases occur, it becomes apparent that the historical and systemic racism and discriminatory practices of policing knows no bounds. From Minneapolis, to Kentucky, to California and Chicago, the innumerable unjust police killings of people of color have gone unanswered.
The images of emotion and celebration flooded my social media feed. My diverse community of friends and loved ones seemed to let out collective sighs of relief as they cried for more action. After the verdict was given, it seemed apparent that the call to hold those accountable for the loss of life has only roared louder.
Ideas for police reform have been in the headlines frequently since last summer, and many ideas have been widely favored, such as outlawing chokeholds and creating a federal database to track officers who have been indicted for misconduct. Ending or limiting qualified immunity, especially in cases where excess force was used, remains among the most popular proposals.
As the judge called out to each juror one-by-one to confirm their votes, it felt as though each and every individual affirmed this call to action. One by one, twelve individual voices took an unprecedented stand to convict a former police officer for murdering an unarmed Black man. Now is the time for collective voices to carry on the work and progress that was made this week, to push for those widely favored police reforms, and to undo centuries of unjust and discriminatory policing.
Katherine Buaron, RN, has a Master of Science in Nursing and is a community health registered nurse at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project