The Derek Chauvin verdict was historic. But is it truly a turning point for America?

When Black Lives Matter protests arose around the country following the murder of George Floyd last year, many people wondered if the U.S. had crossed a threshold. Though protests over police brutality and racial bias in our criminal justice system had been happening for decades, the movement had never been so widespread or supported by so many. George Floyd's murder being caught on film on the heels of Ahmad Arbery's killing, Breonna Taylor's killing, in addition so many others, led to the largest civil rights movement since the 1960s.

The prior movement, which culminated with the passing of the Civil Rights Act, brought changes to our laws—a vital step toward liberty and justice for all. Despite considerable backlash at the time, that act cut the visible weed of government-sanctioned racism off at the surface and ultimately changed the social acceptance of legal racial discrimination.

Jim Crow laws that blatantly protected and defended racial oppression seem archaic and wrong to most Americans now—but it's important to remember that that change of heart was hard-won by civil rights activists at the expense of their own safety, security, and in some cases, their lives. It's also important to acknowledge that while the Civil Rights Act marked an important turning point in this country, it didn't fix the problem at its root.

The roots of racism run deep, and digging up any root system is messy, back-breaking work. And that work is made even more difficult when a good percentage of the country says, "I don't see it" simply because the visible part of the weed was cut down when the Civil Rights Act passed.


George Floyd's murder brought the issue of police brutality against Black Americans into the light of day for all the world to see. And Derek Chauvin's guilty verdicts offer a glimmer of hope that maybe—maybe—we finally have a chance at starting to dismantle part of that root system.

"This day in history is a turning point," said Brandon Williams, the nephew of George Floyd, in remarks following the verdict. Many prominent voices, from civil rights leaders to politicians, used that same hopeful phrase.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s daughter, Bernice King, wrote on Twitter, "God knew just how much we could bear. This is a turning point. Let's continue to correct everything that stands against love. That is true #justice."

Former Ohio state senator Nina Turner wrote, "This needs to be a turning point for America. It does not end here—far from it, but it's a damn good feeling to exhale and feel that some semblance of justice was served. My heart is with the Floyd family."

Then she added, "If you ever doubt the power of movements, please remember today."

Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock issued a statement that included the phrase as well. "As a voice for Georgians in the Senate, and as a Black man, I hope today's verdict is the beginning of a turning point in our country where people who have seen this trauma over and over again will know it is possible to have equal protection under the law," he wrote.

Ben Crump, the attorney for the Floyd family as well as other Black Americans killed by the police, and who has won over 200 cases involving police brutality, added to the chorus.

"Painfully earned justice has finally arrived for George Floyd's family," he wrote on Twitter. "This verdict is a turning point in history and sends a clear message on the need for accountability of law enforcement. Justice for Black America is justice for all of America!"

Vice President Kamala Harris offered a similar message as she spoke before President Biden about what the verdict means for the direction of our country.

"Because of smartphones, so many Americans have now seen the racial injustice that black Americans have known for generations, the racial injustice that we have fought for generations, that my parents protested in the 1960s, that millions of us— Americans of every race—protested last summer," she said.

"Here's the truth about racial injustice. It is not just a Black America problem or a people of color problem. It is a problem for every American. It is keeping us from fulfilling the promise of liberty and justice for all, and it is holding our nation back from realizing our full potential."

President Biden spoke at length about the reality of racism in America, the need for accountability in policing, and the trauma that has been inflicted for far too long on communities of color. Speaking of George Floyd's murder and the jury's verdict, he said:

"Nothing can ever bring their brother or their father back, but this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America. Let's also be clear, that such a verdict is also much too rare. For so many people, it seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors, a brave young woman with a smartphone camera, a crowd that was traumatized, traumatized witnesses, a murder that lasts almost 10 in broad daylight for ultimately the whole world to see, officers stay standing up and testifying against a fellow officer instead of just closing ranks, which should it be commended. A jury who heard the evidence, carried out their civic duty in the midst of an extraordinary moment, under extraordinary pressure. For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver a just, just basic accountability...

"No one should be above the law and today's verdict sends that message, but it's not enough. We can't stop here. In order to deliver real change and reform we can, and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedy like this will ever happen to occur again."

Biden called for the passage of the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, which would ban chokeholds and carotid holds at the federal level, ban no-knock warrants for federal drug cases, end qualified immunity, make it easier for police accused of misconduct to be prosecuted, prohibit discriminatory profiling, create a national police misconduct registry, improve police training, invest in community programs designed to promote equitable policies, and more.

Biden said:

"The battle for soul of this nation has been a constant push and pull for more than 240 years, a tug of war between the American ideal that we're all created equal, and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart. At our best, the American ideal wins out. So, we can't leave this moment or look away thinking our work is done. We have to look at it. We have to look at it as we did for those nine minutes and 29 seconds. We have to listen.

'I can't breathe. I can't breathe.' Those were George Floyd's last words. We can't let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words. We must not turn away. We can't turn away. We have a chance to begin to change the trajectory in this country. That's my hope and prayer that we live up to the legacy."

Whether the George Floyd verdict will truly serve as a turning point for the U.S. remains to be seen, but it's also not something that's out of our control. This is a choice we have to make, individually and collectively. We the people have to decide that enough truly is enough, raise our voices in myriad ways calling for change that will lead us closer to true liberty and justice for all, and dedicate ourselves to the long, hard work of uprooting racism once and for all.

The only question is, will we?

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Chris Evans is playing the lead role in the upcoming Pixar film "Lightyear."

Chris Evans was already skilled at squeezing hearts on social media, cavalierly sharing sweet pics of his adorable dog and piano-playing videos on Instagram, as if we could just casually watch him be a near-perfect man without swooning. And now he's being even more delightful with his gushing giddiness over getting to play his dream role.

The guy is already best known as the studly Marvel superhero Captain America, so what could possibly top that? Pixar, apparently. Evans' ultimate acting dream is being in a Pixar movie. And now that dream is coming true, the most eligible of the Chrises could not be cuter in his expressions of joy.

Sharing the new trailer for "Lightyear"—Pixar's origin story about the astronaut the Buzz Lightyear toy was based on in the "Toy Story" universe—Evans wrote on Twitter:

"I'm covered in goosebumps. And will be every time I watch this trailer. Or hear a Bowie song. Or have any thought whatsoever between now and July cause nothing has ever made me feel more joy and gratitude than knowing I'm a part of this and it's basically always on my mind."

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Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term "stupid" isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he believes applies to everyone.

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