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?

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

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How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

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When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

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"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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