Mavis Rudof was just 13 when she realized what she wanted to do with her life.
It was June 11, 2019, and she watched from the courtroom gallery as her public-defender father argued for the freedom of Darrell Jones, a Black man who had been convicted of murder by an all-white jury in 1986. When the jury, this time with two Black jurors, came back with a not-guilty verdict, she knew.
“I got into the car with my dad after the verdict ... and was like ‘this is the work I need to do,’” she recalls.
I met Mavis when she was a student in my preschool classroom. When I caught up with her a year ago, cellphone footage of George Floyd’s death had just emerged and Mavis could no longer wait to add her voice to calls for racial justice. She joined protests and solidified her resolve to “obstruct the injustice that we are living in right now,” as she told me at the time.
A year later, former police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted of Mr. Floyd’s murder. In Mavis’ view, “tremendous change” is still needed. “Our first police officers were slave patrols,” she says. “That says a lot about how our systems have been built.”
At a societal level, she says the verdict opened “a window of possibility for changes. It showed that convictions can happen.”
These hopes have been buoyed by the public discussions of justice, privilege, and racial equity over the past year. “White people need to be forced to think about these issues,” she argues. “Black people live it every day.”
Her advice to white people wanting to better understand these issues? “Listen to people of color. And learn. ... If race is hard to talk about, then you are probably having the right kind of conversations.”