Q&A With Jill English: Reaction to the Derek Chauvin Trial Verdict and How We Can Move Forward
Posted on April 21st, 2021
Jill English is the Director of Child Advocates’ interactive, two-day Interrupting Racism for Children workshops for the community. Participants leave the workshop with a greater sense of their own power to help build a community where race will never be a predictor of a child’s life outcomes. Jill also directly advocated for the needs of abused and neglected children for years with a focus on understanding diversity and the impact of trauma.
In this Q & A, she shares advice for parents and for the whole community on how to move forward and seek racial equity for everyone in the wake of the Derek Chauvin Trial.
Q & A WITH JILL ENGLISH:
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO THE PUBLIC AT LARGE IN THE WAKE OF THE MURDER CONVICTIONS FOR DEREK CHAUVIN, THE FORMER POLICE OFFICER WHO KILLED GEORGE FLOYD?
I would urge people to give themselves grace. It’s human to feel pain when watching someone have their life taken out of them. It is traumatic. So we need to give ourselves and each other space and grace because our reactions may be different. People have different responses to anger, hurt, injustice. Don’t expect to have the same emotional outpouring. So, again, give each other grace. Racism serves the purpose of keeping us divided. So instead, what if we honor Mr. Floyd’s life by taking this opportunity to lean in to improve communities—whatever that means for you and however you choose to be part of the change.
When you decide to draw a line in the sand and justify a life being taken by someone who was a paid servant for all communities, we have some work to do. So we can choose to be a part of the solution, not the problem.
HOW CAN WE BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION?
Again, it starts with giving each other grace and by starting to have conversations. If you don’t understand my life or where I come from, or if you don’t want to understand it, this can make solutions harder. But you can often find solutions in our everyday commonalities. No one wants to think that making a mistake in their lives will result in their death at the hands of those who are paid to protect them. Start to ask the questions, why is that a reality for black and brown people? Why do some families have to teach their children how to engage with law enforcement knowing that there are inherent dangers…dangers with historical and current data to support that reality?
We must also understand that not all police officers are bad. I have several relatives who are police officers, and they do honorable work. So you can root out the individuals who are doing the disservice with an understanding that you can’t make a blanket assessment of an entire population based on the actions of one. We can’t demonize every police officer just as police shouldn’t demonize all people of color based on limited interactions or stereotypes. Too often white people are seen as individuals, while people of color are burdened with collective stereotypes representing an entire race.
But in instances like the murder of George Floyd and this trial, you can see that the system needs to change. The police force was created to protect people, but who was included in that protection? The system was created to keep some “in their place” in a social construct based on a racial hierarchy. So we have to pull out the deep roots of any system that doesn’t benefit everyone, while not demonizing those who go to work every day in uniform and do their jobs well.
WHAT THOUGHTS DO YOU WANT TO SHARE ABOUT WHY GEORGE FLOYD’S MURDER TRAUMATIZED BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE, IN PARTICULAR, TO HELP PEOPLE BETTER UNDERSTAND THEIR PERSPECTIVE AND EVEN THEIR PAST REACTIONS?
You can’t keep traumatizing human beings and not expect a response such as protests. You can’t devalue someone’s humanity without expecting them to react. And protests are not riots.
Also, understand that some people of color have witnessed protests as an outcry that has been racialized. We see that some individuals can take the lives of others and not lose their lives. The idea that some protests are riots and others are designated differently is based on race. When you continue to oppress and deny someone’s humanity, it affects their ability to thrive, and not just survive. In the movies, people cheer on uprisings and support pushing back against systems, but when it happens in real life with brown and black people, in the eyes of some—it’s a problem.
We’ve watched some police officers being humane with others who are under arrest, including some who have shot and killed people. But police officers should be humane to people regardless of what a person does. It is not an officer’s job to be the jury and executioner. How do we end up with someone who has an expired license plate, or a busted headlight—dead, for example?
People of color do face biases. White people may assert themselves and push back and ask an officer why they’re being pulled over or even say, “You can’t harass me,” but some of those same people don’t support that action by people of color. Their biases can justify a supposition that a person of color is “less than”. They are essentially saying that people of color “didn’t stay in their place.”
But when it comes to the death of George Floyd, how do we justify another human being laying on someone’s neck for more than nine minutes? I might ask you to consider “Who has the problem?”
WHAT DOES THE VERDICT ‘GUILTY ON ALL CHARGES’ MEAN TO THE BLACK COMMUNITY?
I think that many in the black community are saying it’s about time. You’re also hearing a lot of people saying the verdict shows that black lives matter. Someone is being held accountable. I think it has also sparked a momentum of hope, but we have to intentionally keep that momentum going. It took a lot of years of unrest to get to this critical turning point. We’ve been here before and history shows us we’ll be here again if we don’t stay the course.
WHAT CAN PARENTS OF ALL RACIAL BACKGROUNDS AND ETHNICITIES SAY TO THEIR CHILDREN ABOUT THE VERDICT?
I would be honest. For children who are of the age to comprehend, you can tell them that the act that led to this verdict remains an atrocity. The murder of George Floyd was wrong. And the world was watching us because we have a track record of not having accountability when law enforcement kills unarmed black men. If age-appropriate, parents can also share other incidents with children to show that this has been a consistent problem, and it’s not over. We’ve seen this time and time again.
So we must be intentional about changing systemic racism because we are all a part of these systems. What role are you encouraging your children to play, and what role are you playing? Start to educate yourselves about how and why some of the systems you work in, live in, and engage in were created to the exclusion of people based on race and/or ethnicity. Understand how we got where we are today. You can find educational resources on our website as part of our “Interrupting Racism for Children” workshops.
Also, get out of your bubble. Start to value other people’s cultures and how they live by engaging with them and not just talking about it. Where do you spend your money and time?
This is not a moment. This is a movement for our nation, and we can’t stop now.
For resources on where you can learn more about systemic racism and how to interrupt racism for children click here: