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Land of the Free?

Every court case tells a story. While many are about the immediate parties involved, others demonstrate the need for legal, political, or moral reform. The Derek Chauvin murder trial trial is one such case.

Many referred to this case as a "slam dunk" and in the aftermath of the verdict, it seems the pundits were correct. This was anything but a "slam dunk." The verdict followed decades of abusive officers being let off the hook, buoyed by previous case successes and qualified immunity for cops. The key unanswered question is whether the verdict will make it easier for police abused citizens to hold police officers accountable in the future.

Chauvin’s trial and conviction have awakened the inequalities in our justice system and shed light on the painful truth that systemic racism continues to fuel injustice toward people of color, particularly young, black men. However, if George Floyd’s life (and so many others) really matters, our society, our local, state, and national governments, and our citizens must do more.

These injustices didn’t begin with George Floyd—we cannot continue to deny what is plainly before our eyes. We, a society based on principals of equal justice for all, must resolve to change.

Most people view racial equality from the lens of their own personal backgrounds. We are creatures of our own upbringing, what our parents, schools, cultural, and social environment have taught us. What if we were provided with sugar-coated improper or inaccurate information about people from different races, creeds, or religions? Philosopher George Santayana once said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

History is important, but only if we learn the truth.

Literary works are one way of “remembering” the past in a way that exceeds the limits of our own memory and experience. Books can help encourage change and save us from repeating egregious mistakes. I use my own writing to introduce social justice issues, relevant characters who are confronted by them, and potential solutions in assuring that we, the people, are all treated fairly by our legal and political systems. Hopefully, in some small way, I can make a difference.

Systemic racism and inequality will not be conquered anytime soon; this will be a long, hard process. On the other hand, our country and people have come a long way from slavery and Jim Crow. We must all strive to be better, to play a part in history—each one of us must resist and reject intolerance and violence, conduct ourselves as, and raise our children to be responsible citizens who won’t tolerate racism and bigotry.

If we are to build bridges that unite us, rather than walls that divide us, we must acknowledge our racist past and work together toward a more just future. We have enormous power if we work together, stand up to and speak out about injustice. When we finally embrace this power, America will finally reach its promised potential—all of our people will finally be able to live in the land of the free.

Mark M. Bello, a trial lawyer, is the author of “Betrayal in Black” and other ‘ripped from the headlines’ Zachary Blake Social Justice Legal Thrillers available on and other online booksellers. For more information, please visit

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