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Derek Chauvin’s eyes

To the editor:

What did you see when you looked at Derek Chauvin as he heard the jury’s verdict? His cold determination not to feel remorse for his huge mistake was frightening and off-putting, but it taught me something about myself.

A wise person asked, “How do you know when it is morning?” The correct answer is not when you hear the birds sing or when you can see outside your window, but when you are able to look into the eyes of a stranger and see they’re a brother or sister.

So, as I think again of that look in Derek Chauvin’s eyes, the same look that we saw when he knelt for nine minutes on George Floyd’s neck, I try to muster some compassion for a person who doesn’t know himself, who can justify actions that he must know are wrong.

And as I think even harder, I realize that I am capable of that look. I, too, have made grave mistakes that have caused pain. Just by being white in this nation I have participated in a society that has systematically and systemically mistreated people of color. In addition, my material wants have been satisfied at the expense of all life. Also, my country supports violent regimes and actions in the world. In all cases, the time for justice is long overdue, and I am being called to experience remorse and to act.

What to do with the guilt and shame I feel? Personal action is important, but it’s not enough. I can recycle, I can be kind to strangers, I can donate to charities, but the changes that are needed will involve political action. The systems that have benefited some of us at the expense of others have to be challenged, and change involves hard work. Fortunately, cooperation is something humans do really well.

Our republic gives us the freedom and means to build a better world. We need to become informed and seek the truth. We must support elected officials and representatives who are unafraid to take bold measures to dismantle racist, destructive laws and policies, and to address justice in all forms. We need candidates who can feel remorse and who dream of peace with justice for all.

And, when we look in the mirror, we need to soften our gaze, lest we see there what we saw in Derek Chauvin’s eyes.

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