Today, a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd. I’m relieved and heartened that justice has been done and his killer is being held accountable for his actions. This will not give George Floyd his life back, but I hope it brings a small measure of comfort to his family in their grief.
As I reflect on the murder of George Floyd and the conviction of his killer, I think about the message it sends the students in Launch’s programs. Too often, our Black students are let down by an educational system that doesn’t always support them while living in a country that frequently fails to acknowledge their innate humanity and worth. It’s a heartbreaking truth that children of color become aware at a very young age that there are people in this world who would harm them or treat them differently because of the color of their skin. Our goal is to make sure that every child in our programs knows that Launch teachers care about each one of them and that we value, honor, and support all of who they are, even if the world outside of Launch might not always value and support them.
Today, our Black students see that justice is possible for people who look like them. They see that, at least this once, a white police officer was held accountable for killing a Black man. They see what happens when millions of people across the country stand up, use their voices, protest, advocate, run for office, and work to create a better future for us all. They see the white allies who refused to stay quiet in the face of injustice and joined together with BIPOC organizers to make change happen. As WA State Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley said on Twitter this afternoon, “I keep reflecting on what it took to get this verdict. This one verdict. The millions of feet marching and words spoken and signs waved. For only one verdict. And how much justice we deserve. And how much grief we still carry.”
At Launch, we believe in collective liberation. None of us are free until all of us are free. None of us have justice until all of us have justice. As Governor Inslee said in a statement this afternoon, “Our communities will not be at peace until everyone feels secure to do the most basic things. I’m talking about the right to vote. Or the right to get in the car and drive anywhere safely without fear of being killed. To walk down any street in America or go shopping at the department store without being selectively followed. To work regardless of what your hair or skin color looks like. To rent or buy a house in the neighborhood of your choice, or to get an insurance policy without being asked for a credit score. These ordinary activities must be available to all.”
White supremacy and anti-Black violence are embedded in the foundation of our country – there are clear racial disparities in education, income, home ownership, health outcomes, and the criminal justice system due to historical and systemic racism. While Launch’s mission focuses specifically on addressing educational inequities impacting children ages 3-12, all of these disparities intersect. We can’t end educational inequities without tackling poverty, hunger, access to healthcare, or the school-to-prison pipeline. Addressing racial and economic inequities so that all people in our community are able to not just survive, but thrive is central to our work.
As I said above, we have more work to do. But today we will savor this one victory, honor George Floyd’s memory, and reenergize ourselves to continue the fight against white supremacy and racial injustice.
Black Lives Matter.
Angela Griffin, CEO