When you first heard on September 23rd that no charges were brought against any of the police officers responsible for the no-knock raid that resulted in Breonna Taylor’s murder, you cannot help but ask: “Why has my country let me down?” Under further reflection, a more germane question might be: “Why has America so mercilessly let Black women down?” It has been an undeniable ongoing refrain from our justice system that the lives of black men don’t matter…and now we hear a resounding echo of a further truth that the lives of black women don’t matter either.
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black female EMT in Louisville Kentucky, was murdered by three white Louisville Metro Police officers on March 13, 2020, during a botched no-knock drug raid into her apartment while she was asleep. The alleged drug investigation under which the warrant for the raid was issued, involved three plainclothes police officers who broke into her apartment without prior notice or announcing themselves as police officers. Breonna’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, believing that they were victims of a home invasion, in fear of his life and being unaware who was on the other side of the door, fired a single shot from his licensed gun toward the intruders and the police fired their guns hitting Ms. Taylor eight times. Ms. Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend Mr. Kenneth Walker have no criminal history and no drugs were found in the apartment .
Since the March 13th shooting, Breonna’s death has become one of the nation’s top news stories and remains at the forefront of discussions and protests of police violence and systemic racism in America…
Following her death, on June 26th, the Louisville Metro Council unanimously voted to ban and outlaw the use of no-knock warrants, which allowed the police to forcibly enter people’s homes without warning . The band on such intrusions is called Breonna’s Law. The ordinance also requires all Louisville Metro Police Department officers to be equipped with an operating body camera while searching. The cameras have to be activated no later than five minutes before all searches and remain on for five minutes after. All recorded data also has to be retained for five years following an executing action, according to the ordinance. Hopefully, this law will save more black lives in her city.
With all of this, we are left to wonder and seriously question, just how many tragic deaths will need to occur before Black Lives truly matter? Just how many of our brothers and sisters need to die at the hands of police officers before this madness is stopped? Moving forward, what can we do as a country to hold police officers accountable, given the erosion of credibility brought about by the innumerable video recordings that irrefutably evidence and expose the violence perpetuated under law enforcement authority? How can we make black homes safe from intrusion and violations under a disguise of law enforcement?
After all of our national protests and shouts of “Say Her Name”, and the obvious outrage depicted by our fellow Americans in solidarity, we are left to measure just how much has our country really changed. A scourge of violence and racism has infected America from its very beginning, and as an offspring: Black lives aren’t protected nor valued in America. Until our lives are protected, we must continue to protests, individually and collectively, in mass movements throughout this country seeking recourse and change at every level of engagement.
Black women have represented the voice of American culture, politics, and innumerable other aspects of societal norms that make America the envy of the world, despite its maniacal heritage. From Sally Hemings’s inspiration of one of America’s founding father, through every house slave who raised the master’s children in a spirit of love, through Sojourner Truth who successfully sued to recover her son from slavery in 1828, and Harriet Tubman who refused to accept the enslavement of her loved ones, black women have rendered their souls to this nation which to this very day has still refused to give us our flowers.
Black women have been victimized and brutalized in America since this nation’s very beginning. Through slavery, the systematic rape of black women is evidenced by the millions of mulattos in the south. In the 50 years from 1880 to 1930, over 130 black women were lynched by white mobs in the South. Ida B Wells made a point of exposing the long history of violence through courageous investigation and reporting incidents and conducting lectures around the country even though she was threatened with violence for speaking out.
During the modern civil rights movement, black women played critical roles as strategists and advocates. They held jobs as domestic workers while simultaneously serving in the field marching and training, in the home caregiving and raising children, and in the kitchen cooking and feeding the leaders and their teams. When we consider the women of the civil rights era Rosa Parks readily comes to mind, but the sacrifice of an untold number of sisters is made clear in the rigor and organization of the marches and the ultimate success in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Consider the contributions in the forefront and behind the scenes of Septima Clark, and Diane Nash, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dorthy Height, Ella Baker, and Angela Davis, and so many others who sacrificed everything to create an opportunity to fully participate in the social, economic, political, and cultural fabric of this nation.
In a black woman’s reality, we are always in a constant battle of the intersectionality of race and gender; we are a double minority. Constantly exposed to the exhausting reality of choice, between racial disparities and gender discrimination, black women are constantly engaged in a epic battle to exist, much less to survive and thrive. Even today as Black women focus on fighting for everyone else, we are once again faced with a challenge to be recognized as worthy to possess basic human rights. We are the backbone of America, and the tip of the spear in the fight for justice and equality, all while being treated as the most disrespected and unprotected racial group. We are doing the work to teach about the Black experience at the same time making the conscious effort to proactively educate ourselves and others about racism .
Breonna Taylor, standing on the shoulders of the civil rights and voting rights warriors who came before her, took full advantage of the opportunity she was granted to help others who needed emergency medical services. She aspired to be a nurse, to further engage in an age-old profession of women serving others in need. A profession that values life and fought to sustain it. Committed to a belief that everyone’s life matters, and every life is worth saving. In the end, she lost her life at the hand of heartless, careless, public servants given a badge and a gun. We should commit ourselves to the cause, in Breonna Taylor’s name to make, Breonna’s Law, the law of the land throughout America, and make every effort to educate, inform, promote and insist that Black Lives Matter, today, tomorrow and always!
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