COLUMN: Van Dyke is in jail but Laquan is still dead: are we really better off?

Noah Pearson
Opinions Editor

There are professions on this planet in which cowardice should be a disqualifying factor, and being a police officer is among them.

In 2014, a coward feared a black teenager with a knife exhibiting no signs of aggression and fired 16 shots—killing him with one and mocking him with 15 more.

Four years later, we now have an opportunity to say that this coward has been duly convicted for 2nd degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm: one for every shot he used to project his pathetic fear onto Laquan McDonald.

This is a victory for anyone who is tired and frankly afraid of being feared by the wrong pathetic individual. Any person who has ever worried that getting pulled over would become a death sentence, any person who has told their child not to play with toy guns outside, and any person simply trying to get by with black skin has taken a collective sigh in shock of the fact that the system that enables and celebrates cowards like Jason Van Dyke actually put him in his place.

However, that joyous feeling will expire.

For Van Dyke, it took dashboard camera footage being leaked, a controversial police cover-up of the incident, the firing of the chief of police, Magnificent Mile being completely shut down by protestors, three years before an indictment by a grand jury, and four before he was finally convicted for one of the most aggressive, excessive, and cowardly acts of the police ever documented on camera.

Is this what justice takes? If so, are we really in a better world than the one that killed Laquan?

What is so unfortunate about this victory is the same thing that makes it a victory in the first place. This is an unusual and revolutionary win. The executioners of Rekia Boyd, Philando Castile, Korryn Gaines, Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, or anyone on that haunting and unending list of black lives lost will never be held accountable for their cowardice.

It means so much that the use of our constitutional right to protest had an effect on the justice system, but even then it was not for three years after we shut down Magnificent Mile that we saw the system do the job it was supposed to be doing anyway.

Not everyone can afford to take to the streets every time a racist cop decides to promote himself to a judge, jury, and executioner.

It simply is not fair that in order for someone who was documented fatally shooting someone and then continuing to fire 15 more bullets into a lifeless corpse to even receive an indictment, we as ordinary people had to fight tirelessly for it, just for a body of people to rule that there is probable cause that a crime was even committed. Even then, there was no promise or even a high probability of this man being found guilty of a crime America watched him commit.

This is a significant historical moment. Of course, this is what we want, but we really have to ask the question of whether or not this will mean anything for trigger-happy scared cops in the future.

So yes, celebrate this one time victory of achieving the judicial bare minimum. Sing jubilee just as newly freed slaves did before beginning careers as sharecroppers and leased convicts. Just do not celebrate too loudly or in public, we would not want to scare anyone.