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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Marc Lamont Hill reacts to Chauvin trial verdict

Photo+courtesy+by+Laura+Chouette
Photo courtesy by Laura Chouette
Photo courtesy by Neel/Unsplash

Student Charles Jackson was reciting a poem about the normalization of Black trauma in America when the murder conviction of Derek Chauvin was announced.

 His performance was setting up a virtual Toro Talks interview between activist Marc Lamont Hill and South Intercultural Network coordinator Michael Russ. The session was organized to discuss Hill’s book “We Still Here: Pandemic, Policing, Protest and Possibility.” But as news of the verdict broke, their conversation veered towards their reaction to it.          

“I feel heavy,” Hill said.          

He recalled the initial pain he felt watching the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck. To him, it signified a cold disposability of Black life in America.          

Hill said while he understands the joy many feel in the aftermath of the trial, he still doesn’t place his faith in the criminal justice system. As a police abolitionist, he dreams of a world where the term “criminal justice” is radically redefined.          


“We can’t allow this verdict to make us believe that the system works,” he said.

       

Russ asked Hill about the “two systems of justice” theory — the idea that people of color are treated differently within the system as if they’re being brought into a second one. He said he fears some people will point to the guilty verdict to downplay claims of racial injustice in the future.          

Hill said the justice system is built to make compromises.          

“The argument that there’s two systems of justice doesn’t mean that Black folk never get an outcome they want,” he said. “We’re talking about systems and structures. White supremacy is a quite durable system.          

Hill said he’s more concerned with what the verdict means for the everyday Black person, who still faces racism on a regular basis.          


“One hundred Derek Chauvins won’t change that reality,” he said.

       

When Hill was a young activist, he fought to lock up corrupt police officers and integrate police forces. Now, he looks to the new generation that is taking a step further with calls to defund police, something he doesn’t believe is as radical as it might sound.          

“We’ve lived much longer in human history without police than with them,” he said.          

To introduce people to an abolitionist vision, Hill said he doesn’t begin by describing a world he doesn’t want. Instead, he encourages people to envision a world where all of their needs are met.          

He recalled the shooting of Walter Wallace by Philadelphia police in October of 2020. Wallace’s death spurred debate when it was learned he was holding a knife and suffering a mental breakdown at the time of the shooting. Some claimed the officer who shot Wallace was justified.         

Hill said that these debates are counterintuitive. They work under the assumption that police are the only way to solve problems.          


“When the one tool you have is a hammer, everything is going to look like a nail,” he said.

       

Hill believes money taken from defunded police stations should be reallocated to social workers, care centers and the creation of a public safety force that is trained to de-escalate high-stress situations.          

“What would the world look like if Walter Wallace’s needs had been met?” he said.

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