There’s really no need to fear that Black people will become complacent in the fight against systemic racism and racism in policing. Anytime there’s even a chance we might become comfortable in thinking our lives are beginning to matter in America or that the tide is turning and brutal police officers are being brought to justice (e.g. the convictions of Derek Chauvin, Kim Potter and the men who lynched Ahmaud Arbery), it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing stories that remind us how easy it still is for things to go the other way.
Exhibit A: Laquan McDonald‘s killer will be out of prison soon.
According to the Associated Press, ex-Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke is set to be released from prison next month, meaning he will be free after having served less than half of the 81-month sentence he got three years ago after he was found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for fatally shooting a Black teenager.
Understand this: 81 months (or just under 7 years) was already a light sentence for a cop who shot a 17-year-old 16 times with many of the shots fired after Laquan’s body was already on the ground. Now, Van Dyke, who appealed his conviction but abandoned all appellate hope in 2020, is getting his time more than cut in half for *checks notes* good behavior. (I guess he managed not to shank a Black person 16 times while in prison.)
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“I’m hoping he’s learned the errors of his ways,” Laquan’s great uncle, Rev. Marvin Hunter, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I have always asked for justice and not revenge. We got as much justice you could get with the players that were there at the time he was on trial.”
It’s troubling when Black people are compelled to be so forgiving. Imagine having to settle for the far-fetched possibility that a cop “learned the errors of his ways,” because a Black victim “got as much justice you could get” in an America that continues to be the same old America.
Chauvin, Potter and the McMichaels be damned—we still have a long way to go in the fight to ensure Black lives, indeed, matter.