Posted on: April 22, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Mariam Itani, News Editor

People worldwide–including at Moraine Valley–breathed a sigh of relief this week as former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd.

On May 25, 2020, outside a local shop in Minneapolis, Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for a consecutive nine minutes and 29 seconds until his last breath. On April 20, 2021, almost one year later, the guilty verdicts came in.

“My initial reaction was shock followed by a sense of relief,” said counselor Shanya Gray. “If there was one case that was going to get a conviction, it would be this one.”

Computer engineering major Jon Arredondo, 20, shared a similar view: “I feel as if the man got what he deserved, to be honest. He deserves jail time for killing an innocent man as shown in many videos; there was really no way out of it.”

People in Chicago react to hearing that former police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd.
(Photo by Chicago Tribune)

This moment has taken over all forms of media and affected people all across the globe. In times like these, we see young people standing up and making their voices heard–taking action and changing the course of events.

“Many of our students of color have internalized a message that society does not value them and that their lives aren’t valuable enough for someone to pay a price for hurting or killing them,” says Gray. “I hope this will reinforce to our students that even the smallest of actions can make a difference.

“If 17-year-old Darnella Frazier had not recorded that video, we would not have gotten this conviction. If millions of people had not taken to the streets, led by young people, we would not have gotten this conviction.”

Communications and literature professor Amani Wazwaz says she has seen the effects of racism on her students of color.

“Some have experienced trauma more intensely than others,” she said. “I have witnessed many Black students do their utmost best to strive every day to move forward.” 

Many of our students of color have internalized a message that society does not value them and that their lives aren’t valuable enough for someone to pay a price for hurting or killing them.”

Counselor Shanya Gray

Phil Davis, an educational case manager at Moraine, said the effects of the verdicts cannot be underestimated:

“The impact is immense, particularly for the African American community. The decision changed the narrative on the redundancy of police crimes against African Americans.”

He adds, “African Americans have faced injustice in this country since the days of slavery and Jim Crow. It is a tragedy on all levels to be living in 2021 and African Americans are still suffering from systemic racism in all sectors: education, health care, economics. There must be a full paradigm shift in regard to eliminating racism.”

Political science major Jeselle Power agreed that this conviction is just one step toward a larger goal.

“There are still so many cases where there have been little to no consequences for officers who have used unnecessary violence which led to deaths,” Power said. “I’m not sure if it’ll take just this one instance to start seeing a decrease. The whole situation really opened my eyes to how deep racial inequality is in the U.S. and how unable we are to completely rely on the government and the judicial system to protect every person the same.”

Time will tell if this incident will pave way for bigger changes. For now, students have commented on the fairness of Chauvin’s conviction.

Mike Leoni, a business major, says, “No police academy trains candidates to kneel on someone’s neck, so it was clear from the get-go that Derek Chauvin was guilty.”

Sean Cozzie, a mass communications major, said, “I think the charges were reasonable.”

Biology major Brenda Serna said the punishment should be severe: “Ever since George Floyd’s story came into the news it was obvious that the police officer was going overboard with the power he had.”

The whole situation really opened my eyes to how deep racial inequality is in the U.S. and how unable we are to completely rely on the government and the judicial system to protect every person the same.”

Political science major Jeselle Power

The guilty verdicts led to deep reflection for many, including Moraine counselor Teresa Hannon.

“My initial reaction was that of relief and joy,” she said. “But I quickly went to feeling sadness and anger that the rightly conviction of a white police officer murdering one of our Black male citizens could even bring that relief in the first place.”

In moments like these, an obvious sadness still shadows the events.

“While I understand the celebratory mood of so many people and communities across the nation, I couldn’t help but focus on the sorrow I felt,” says Moraine counselor Souzan Naser. “As a mother, the final cries of George Floyd calling for his mother continue to echo in my mind and heart.”

Wazwaz poetically added weight to these words: “Floyd was not allowed to depart peacefully from Earthly existence; in the last 9 minutes and 29 seconds of his life, he was forced to witness his own death and feel the pain tear his body apart.”

As a community, we celebrate in this pivotal event, and as a community, we reflect on its consequences, she said.

“Every day brings with it the promise of healing, but it will take time to heal deeply. There is an emptiness where George Floyd should have been.”


Ethan Holesha, Mariah Trujillo and Jack Zampillo contributed to this report.