The verdict has been passed. George Floyd’s killer has been found guilty of charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. It’s hardly been a year since we saw the horrific images of Floyd’s murder all over the news and social media, and now we see Derek Chauvin being led away in handcuffs. Many people feel relieved that justice has been served, that a white man does not go home scot free for taking yet another Black life. Others say this will never bring George back, that there have been and will continue to be more George Floyds, that justice will finally be served when we no longer have these killings. Many just feel numb, hollow, and exhausted with the recognition that this struggle for racial justice continues indefinitely.
How do we come to terms with the racial reckoning that is a part of America’s past, present, and future? Psychiatrist Carl Jung said that the journey to wholeness, or what he called individuation, is an opus contra naturam, a work against nature. I take this to mean that this kind of work often goes against our natural human inclination towards apathy, passivity, and unconsciousness in the face of a lifelong, ongoing process towards completion. We yearn for something easy that we can do with little or no effort, something that has an end in sight. Yet the opus must be engaged with consciously, vigorously, endlessly. There is no other way.
It may be an opus contra naturam for some sections of white America to acknowledge the worth and dignity of the Black and Brown people who are their coworkers, neighbors, and fellow humans. Yet it must be done. Or for conservative governors to allow Black voters equal access to the vote (see Georgia’s new voter suppression bill) and to laws that uphold their humanity. But this is what is called for. It may be an opus contra naturam for conservative legislators to support diversity, equality, and inclusion at all levels of society for BIPOC, LGBTQ, Dreamers, refugees, and other minority communities, when it’s so much easier to cling to the status quo and remain opposed to whatever “the other side” proposes. Yet our conscience and our humanity hinges upon it.
Rest in peace, George Floyd. You helped America begin to acknowledge that Black lives do matter.
Onward, America, we have work to do.