For just over an hour on Tuesday, my family, who all live in America, held their breaths.
The jury in the trial of US police officer Derek Chauvin gave word they had reached a verdict, but it wouldn’t be read out for another hour.
For one sister the wait was agonising, she felt as if time was standing still. Another couldn’t bring herself to watch the news at all in case her worst fears were realised.
An hour later they were all able to exhale. After listening to three weeks of evidence from 44 witnesses, the jury in Minneapolis unanimously found Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd.
Even after watching the video of Chauvin with his knee on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, and listening to the compelling evidence, my family and many black Americans still felt the case would go the other way. Because usually it does.
Until Tuesday, when has there ever been justice for black people killed by police in America? When do the scales of justice tip this way?
The outpouring of emotion tells you all you need to know about how much this verdict means. Relief almost feels like an understatement.
But let’s not get complacent. Earlier in the day police in Ohio shot and killed 16-year-old black girl, Ma’Khia Bryant.
Less than two weeks ago unarmed Daunte Wright was killed by a police officer who mistook her gun for a Taser. The list goes on and on.
US President Joe Biden says the verdict could be “a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America”.
He’s right. It can be. It’s a relief that finally we saw a cop held accountable for their actions. But it’s just the beginning, not the end. It’s just one verdict, in one city, in one state.
There needs to be permanent change. A probe into the Minneapolis Police department is a good start.
I desperately hope this verdict is a catalyst for change. I hope it makes the police realise they are not above the law. I hope America will become a safe place for my nephews and cousins.
Isn’t it incredible to think that nearly 60 years after Martin Luther King Jnr’s iconic I Have a Dream speech, the fight for basic civil rights and against systemic racism still goes on.
This week’s verdict was bittersweet. As much as it is a watershed moment, we can’t lose sight of the fact that a father, brother, son, lost his life. As George Floyd’s daughter said, her daddy changed the world. Let’s not let his death have been in vain.