Breonna Taylor Murdered Again!
Black Women Still Marginalized by Extreme Violence
Yesterday’s deleterious decision in the Breonna Taylor case was vexing, to say the least.
A grand jury empaneled in Kentucky failed to indict any of the involved white male police officers for murder of the late EMT — an essential worker amid the pandemic — via dozens of shots fired inside her Southside Louisville apartment.
As you know by now, the murder of 26-year-old Breonna Talyor occurred after plain clothes policemen shockingly busted into her home during the early morning hours, as she and her boyfriend were sleeping.
The failure by the grand jury to effectuate justice leaves the Black community in Kentucky and nationwide reeling with the hopeless feeling that Taylor was effectively murdered twice: first, by trigger happy and reckless white policemen; and second, by a blatantly racist judicial system that treats African Americans as second class citizens.
Kentucky grand jury declines to file homicide charges against police officers in death of Breonna…
A Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for the killing of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid…
Adding avoidable insult to avoidable injury is the fact that the Kentucky grand jury was directed on the consideration of evidence by a Black state attorney general, Republican Daniel Cameron, who gladly accepted a prominent speaking role at the Republican National Convention just one month earlier.
Rather than the policemen who killed Taylor facing “equal justice under law” — the principle upon which America’s judicial system is purportedly built — only one former officer was charged with so-called “wanton endangerment” for misfiring his gun into a neighbor’s apartment.
This blatant miscarriage of justice is nothing short of appalling, especially in the wake of countless recent killings by police of innocent black men and women for highly questionable reasons.
The Breonna Taylor case unequivocally and painfully demonstrates, yet again, that Black Americans are not viewed by law enforcement as flesh and blood human beings. We are not always accorded even the most basic civil rights granted to all citizens under the U.S. Constitution.
This abominable outcome shows, yet again, that Black lives do NOT really matter in a society where institutional racism runs deep and festers in all walks of life — despite the overwhelmingly peaceful protests of the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the country.
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Sleeping While Black
Indeed, the year 2020 has presented Blacks and other people of color with a defining moment. Ditto that for those socially conscious White allies who are likewise committed to justice and equality for African Americans, women and all people of color.
Why can’t Black citizens engage in any semblance of normal social activity without rightfully feeling our very lives are at risk?
Could the legal bar be any lower for law enforcement to murder us at will, and get away with it? Why do we have to endure the following euphemisms as a part of our daily lives:
- “Driving While Black”
- “Walking While Black”
- “Jogging While Black”
- And now…“Sleeping While Black”
The disturbing reality is that the deaths of Black people in general, and Black women in particular, have routinely garnered sparse acknowledgment from the larger society (for the most part).
Understandably, Taylor’s family continues to demand the prosecution of the officers responsible for the careless death of their loved one. The family’s demands for justice have been supported by countless people and organizations, including the Democratic presidential ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
“In the wake of her tragic death, we mourn with her mother, family, and community and ask ourselves whether justice could be equally applied in America,” Biden said in a statement. “I know for so many people, today’s decision does not answer that call.”
The most pressing question at hand is this: Will the unconscionable carnage by police against Black and Brown bodies ever end?
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The Most Ignored
To paraphrase the powerful, passionate mid-20th century black orator and political spokesperson Malcolm X:
Black women are the most ignored, disrespected and mistreated group of people in America.
When Malcolm X expressed his feelings in 1962, he was right on target.
Now, almost 60 years later, his deftly astute comments remain powerfully accurate. Yes, in 2020 the situations, dilemmas and experiences of Black women are all too often marginalized and obscured — if not ignored and dismissed outright by the larger society, including by many in the Black community. This is a sad state of affairs.
For all races, it is true that more men than women are killed by law enforcement.
But the harsh reality is that Black women comprise less than 10% of the nation’s population yet account for more than one-third of all women killed by police.
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Needless to say, such stark disparities in policing are problematic on several levels. Do you remember these two Black women?
- Atatiana Jefferson was shot to death from outside her bedroom window by a police officer Aaron Dean, who was later indicted by a Texas grand jury.
- Sandra Bland, then 28, suspiciously died in 2015 while in police custody.
These were two of the few stories about murdered Black women that received a notable degree of attention. New footage of Bland’s encounter with the officer was released in 2019.
Why are the violent deaths of Black women too often ignored?
Brutal atrocities aside, even for Black women who are fortunate enough to survive assault or death, being greeted by intense physical violence is still the norm.
During the past several years, there have been numerous incomprehensible incidents of innocent Black women targeted of police brutality. Some examples follow:
- A 92-year-old great grandmother in Atlanta was shot multiple times by police officers as they stormed her home without a search warrant.
- A Black woman from Houston was brutally assaulted by a group of undercover officers after being confused for a white prostitute who was wearing similar attire.
- A Black woman in Memphis sitting in an airport was physically assaulted by two white police officers.
- A Black woman in Chicago was killed by a police officer when they mistook her cell phone for a gun.
- A Black woman in Charlotte was killed after police fired 22 rounds into the car she was driving when it failed to stop at a police checkpoint
- A Black woman from Miami was traveling to see friends when she was pulled over by an irate South Carolina police officer demanding she get out of the car and on the ground. Fortunately, she survived.
Police brutality directed toward Black women, or any group of women, is simply intolerable and cannot stand under any circumstances in a lawful society.
While many Americans have expressed outrage at the murder of Breonna Taylor, and other stark examples of racial injustice by police, not everyone seems to give a damn.
There have been some pathetic people, primarily among conservative media and political groups, who have resorted to a heartless mentality commensurate with the saying: They must have done something to deserve it.
These ruthless right-wing elements of society tend to view Black women — and all Black people by extension — as rude, combative, oversexed, elemental and mistrustful by nature.
This retrograde mentality must end for systemic racism to end.
While we must be ever vigilant to combat the hostile and deadly experiences too many Black men endure at the hands of law enforcement, we must also be more attuned to monitoring the violent, psychologically lacerating, and often ignored similar experiences of Black women.
Black women are human beings, first and foremost. They have just as much right to expect and demand unbiased treatment by law enforcement with as much civility and dignity as any other group. This is a necessary and mandatory issue of racial justice that can no longer escape our full attention.
And while Breonna Taylor is gone due to cold-blooded murder by reckless white policemen, her memory lives on…
#SayHerName — Breonna Taylor!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elwood Watson, Ph.D. is a historian, public speaker, cultural critic and professor at East Tennessee State University. His latest book is, Keepin’ It Real: Essays on Race in Contemporary America (University of Chicago Press). His new book, Talkin’ to You Bro! Real Challenges Men Face in the 21st Century (Lasting Impact Press), will be released soon.