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Tabitha Moore On What Should Come After Chauvin Conviction: 'Massive Structural Change'

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Nina Keck
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VPR File

Former Rutland Area NAACP president Tabitha Moore has long spoken out against racial injustice. On Wednesday, Moore joined VPR’s community conversation about the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd.

VPR’s Connor Cyrus and Jane Lindholm spoke with Tabitha Moore. Their conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity, and it began with how Moore was feeling following yesterday’s news.
 

Tabitha Moore: I have all kinds of feelings right now, but what comes to my mind first is the idea that we've even seen accountability yet. When I think about the process here, the first thing is acknowledgment. And then there's accountability, justice, restoration and transformation. And I think throughout this whole thing, the thing that's going through my mind is that, don't forget that no one in the police department was going to roll on Derek Chauvin and the other three until the video surfaced, until people started to be like, “Wait a second, this is what just happened.”

So, I think it's really important to acknowledge that all that's happened so far is that we validated the reality that Derek Chauvin killed a man. We haven't even gotten to accountability yet, and actually, that's where I get worried about what's about to happen. So, we're still a long way from justice, let alone restoration or transformation. So that's kind of what's on my mind.

And so, as I hear people even using the word “celebrate,” it’s worth celebrating, or even feeling relieved — which I admit I felt a degree of relief — that we're validating the basic reality that we all watched a video of a police officer killing a Black man. If we're celebrating that, it tells us just how broken our system is, just how much work we have to do to transform it and make it actually a system that works for people.

Listen to VPR's full community conversation about the Derek Chauvin murder trial verdict, here.

Connor Cyrus: This murder, I think, really hit the BIPOC community extra hard, especially mothers. How does the verdict, if anything, change the way you talk to your kids about what happened?

Well, it's funny because my son, who is 13, reached out to me as it happened. He texted me, he said, “Mom, you know, George Floyd’s murderer was found guilty on all three charges.” And I said, “You know, that's right, son. What do you feel about that?” And he said, “Honestly, I don't even care, unless he gets a life sentence.”

And this is my 13-year-old, who recognizes that again we really haven't found justice anywhere yet. So, for me, you know, as a parent, and in all of my roles, it doesn't really change anything, because, again, the system is still as messed up as it was before. It was just a great deal of public pressure that got us to this point.

"I want us to really be talking about transforming our systems and stop acting like we can’t." — Tabitha Moore

Jane Lindholm: Tabitha, you mentioned that you don't think that this verdict even gets us to the point of accountability.

No.

Jane Lindholm: So, what was it, if not accountability? What was it?

It's a gateway to accountability. All we just did was collectively watch a video and say, “Yup, he murdered that guy. And, yup, that was extremely racist.” That's all we've done. And now accountability is: What is going to happen to Derek Chauvin because of it? So that's the individual accountability piece, right. But then there's a systemic accountability piece, right. Like I said, nobody in that department was going to roll on Derek Chauvin if that 17-year-old had not put that video together out there. It would have been another, you know, Tamir Rice, it would have been everybody else.

So, I think in order for us to get to accountability, we have to maintain this level of public pressure, which I think as one of your callers said, we’re exhausted, we’re spread thin. Is this really what we have to do to get the system to work the way it's supposed to? And that's not even justice. That's not even what is needed to begin to help this family heal. I mean, maybe it's a step toward that, but then again, all of the ripples across the nation of fear and, you know, continued lack of justice are still out there and have just been kind of awakened by this even more, you know, just reminded of it. So, there's so much more work to do.

Jane Lindholm: So, this isn't your job, but what do you want white Vermonters to do to pick up that mantle to carry some of that burden, to deal with the pain and exhaustion that BIPOC Vermonters are feeling and, you know, offer some relief and some change.

Right. I think, you know, my answer here is two-fold. I think for me as a BIPOC Vermonter, self-care and self-care for all my BIPOC Vermonters is really critical. Seeing each other, healing each other, just being in relationship with each other is probably the most important thing for us right now, and for us to envision our future and how we want it, so that as white people start to listen and get their resources ready to reimagine a safer Vermont, that, you know, we are driving that vision.

White folks have to be listening, not just listening, but stop making excuses for why you can't do things, like [Vermont Attorney General] T.J. Donovan. Like, you know, anybody with power. Like the Legislature. You know, they're trying, but again, the ways that the systems are working aren't working for people. They're not working for people that are even in them trying to make changes.

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So, I think that white folks have got to be talking about deep systemic change. We have to stop trying to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic and deal with our legislative and structural issues that are preventing true justice from taking shape. Even those who work in law enforcement, in criminal justice, will tell you it is not working the way it's happening. So rather than talking about, you know, even, how we can be in relationships with each other, which, again, is a critical component, we need to be talking about massive structural change in realistic ways.

Connor Cyrus: You talk about this in a very grand idea, but how do you simplify this for people at home? So they really understand that BIPOC are exhausted, that they need help and they want help, and to really further the conversation. So we're not stuck in this loop of this conversation over and over and over again after another Black person gets killed.

Well, I think number one is to realize that transformation is possible on the individual and the collective level, and that that starts with like, yeah, you can do your individual actions. You can Venmo, you know, money to BIPOC. You can stand there if you see BIPOC interacting with police. You can have book clubs where you're challenging yourself to open your eyes and do things differently. But unless you're really looking at Black feminist queer theory and really understanding the vision for the future, and then coming from that perspective, I think it's going to be difficult.

I think, you know, we really do need to revisit what public safety looks like. And then I think, again, I mean, it's the same thing we've been saying. Every time something happens, every time I'm on here, I'm talking about how, you know, when things like this happen, the expectation that BIPOC will — that we are going to be the ones that you turn to and apologize to. It's overwhelming, but, you know, I guess my advice to white people would be, you just got to start trying and be ready to apologize. You're going to mess it up, because we have to co-create this, and recognize that people aren’t going to necessarily be trusting right off the bat.

But again, for me, I'm kind of tired of trying to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. I want us to really be talking about transforming our systems and stop acting like we can’t.

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