The verdict holding former police officer Derek Chauvin accountable for the murder of George Floyd was an important and public step for accountability and justice. Though the verdict cannot return the life of George Floyd or truly heal the profound loss that Mr. Floyd’s family and community continue to experience, we recognize together that no one is above justice— and that George Floyd’s life mattered.
As Vice President Kamala Harris said yesterday, “America has a long history of systemic racism. Black Americans and Black men in particular have been treated throughout the course of our history as less than human. Black men are fathers and brothers and sons and uncles and grandfathers and friends and neighbors. Their lives must be valued in our education system, in our health care system, in our housing system, in our economic system, in our criminal justice system, in our nation. Full stop.”
She continued: “Here’s the truth about racial injustice: It is not just a Black America problem or a people-of-color problem. It is a problem for every American. It is keeping us from fulfilling the promise of liberty and justice for all. And it is holding our nation back from realizing our full potential. We are all a part of George Floyd’s legacy. And our job now is to honor it and to honor him.”
Inspired by the verdict and by these words, each of us in the field of public health should ask how we can contribute to solutions. I know that many faculty, students, and staff at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have been deeply involved in these efforts. Next week, I will share some new opportunities to support this work.
For now, we can reflect together on the tragedy of George Floyd’s death—and on the promise of a different future and our role in making it possible.
Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor
Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Johns Hopkins University