On the Guilty Verdicts

The fact that a police officer murdering a man in broad daylight was found guilty tells us not that justice is served in this country, but that justice has been absent all along. The guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin is newsworthy and historic because it is an exception, not because it is an example of how well the American justice system works. The litany of African-Americans killed by police and others who have historically escaped justice is so long that no one could recount all of them.

Time and again the killer (s) have gone free. It is a reflection of the systemic racism built into the country that it is assumed when a cop kills a black person the cop will go free while the families and loved ones of the victim are left to wonder where the justice promised to all of us has gone and why it doesn’t apply to them. This also isn’t just about murder; it’s about all the ways that people of color are discriminated against in this country with a blind eye turned toward all of it by the white ruling class.

We have so much work to do. Derek Chauvin’s conviction does not negate the escape from justice of those who killed other loved ones like Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant, Daunte Wright, Elijah McClain, and countless others we never hear about because charges are never brought when the killings are investigated by other heads of the same hydra and then are ruled as justified.

There is so much work to do. The Chauvin case cannot be the exception. It must be the rare example (so far) of a justice system that works and that ultimately leads to justice in all similar cases. It must lead to a society so deconstructed from systemic racism that the era of similar cases is ended once and for all. Police and others must recognize that they can no longer get away with murder and that the thin blue line of loyalty no longer extends to those who kill or who target any race or class of people.

This is a moment where we can not only look at reforming our justice system, but begin to overhaul an entire society where structural racism has kept us from living up to our promise.as a nation. We have not ended police killings of vulnerable citizens, hate groups, or discrimination, but we now have the opportunity to begin to look inward and create long-needed reform in all areas of our society. This is day one. Every day going forward must be day one on the long journey to true and consistent justice for all.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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