On Wednesday, the Five Colleges of Ohio — Denison University, Oberlin College, the College of Wooster, Ohio Wesleyan University and Kenyon College — hosted a two-hour support session following Tuesday’s verdict convicting former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of the murder of George Floyd.
After 10 hours of deliberation over two days, the jury found Chauvin guilty on all charges brought against him: third-degree murder, second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter.
“Never before has a white police officer been held responsible for the killing of a Black citizen in Minnesota,” President Sean Decatur wrote in a Student-Info email on Tuesday evening. “But the circumstances that led to Mr. Floyd’s death — the systems of oppression, the deeply ingrained biases, and the senseless brutality that is their result — are anything but unprecedented. If justice was served today, the difficult work to overturn an unjust system remains.”
Last May, Floyd’s death sparked the largest civil rights protests in decades across the country. Protests escalated during the trial, especially after the shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright by a Brooklyn Center police officer on April 11, 10 miles from where Chauvin’s trial was held.
In Ohio, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was shot by Columbus police just 20 minutes before the verdict of the trial was announced. In reaction to the killing, students at Ohio State University occupied the Ohio Union, demanding that the University end their relationship with the Columbus police department.
Over 20 people from the Five Colleges — including diversity officers, mental health counselors and religious advisors — attended the session, which consisted of two group discussions. The session was split into two breakout rooms, one for discussing historical context and one for self-care.
In the historical context breakout room, participants discussed the importance of creating safe spaces for racial healing, particularly in the classroom, in order to address and teach about racial issues without inciting direct trauma for students of color. They also discussed the role that visuals and media culture play in “violence porn:” the sharing of traumatic videos to social media, which can be triggering for those who are Black, Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC). At the same time, participants discussed how the video of Floyd’s murder was one of the main reasons that his death gained so much attention and ultimately the reason Chauvin was convicted.
In the self-care breakout session, participants discussed the difficulty of coping when the country is in a constant state of tragedy. They talked about what self-care looks like. Some argued that self-care was, as much as anything, a social construct, while others described practicing it in nontraditional terms — deliberately not checking email, self-advocating or simply trying to exist in the moment.
Jason Timpson, director of multicultural student affairs at Ohio Wesleyan University, talked about the importance of speaking openly and honestly about how we’re coping. “That’s a revolution I want to start — is for people to be honest,” he said.
A list of student support resources at all Ohio Five colleges can be found in this document.