On Tuesday, April 20, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, following nearly a year of protests and outrage, three weeks of testimony, and ten hours of jury deliberation. Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes as witnesses helplessly tried to stop him and Floyd said over and over that he couldn't breathe, was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Immediately after the verdict was announced, many politicians spoke about the verdict, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice. For being there to call out to your mom. How heartbreaking was that?" she said. "Call out to your mom, 'I can’t breathe.' But because of you and because of thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice."
Pelosi was swiftly criticized for her remarks, with people like Albert Lee pointing out that thanking George Floyd for being murdered — for "sacrificing [his] life" — is a way of devaluing Black lives, and reducing Black people's worth to their role in dismantling white supremacy, and seeing Floyd as a "pawn" rather than a person.
An hour later, seemingly in response to the criticism about her initial comments, Pelosi quote-tweeted her original comments, adding: "George Floyd should be alive today. His family's calls for justice for his murder were heard around the world. He did not die in vain. We must make sure other families don't suffer the same racism, violence & pain, and we must enact the George Floyd #JusticeInPolicing Act."
Pelosi wasn't the only politician to imply that Floyd's murder was a means to an end, a tragic but necessary part of a journey to an equitable society. Though Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said that Floyd should still be alive today and that a guilty verdict won't change that, he opened his remarks on the verdict with this: "George Perry Floyd Jr. came to Minneapolis to better his life. But ultimately, his life will have bettered our city."
George Floyd was murdered; it is not his job, either in life or in death, to dismantle the racist system that has long protected and encouraged people like his murderer, Derek Chauvin. But it is the job of politicians like Pelosi and Frey to hold themselves and others accountable for perpetuating those systems, rather than just thank a man whose life was not willingly sacrificed, but was viciously taken from him.