Stella Maxwell
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Breonna Taylor Fell Victim to Gunfire—and a Nation Built on Racism

Breonna

How, in God’s name, do you get shot six times, and killed, in the middle of the night by police officers who barged into your apartment while you were sleeping, and have no accountability? No one responsible for a murder? No one to pay a price for a lost life?

This week, the country marked 200,000 deaths from COVID-19. There were no national vigils, no national moment of silence from the leader of this country to mark this horrific death count. There is no national, collective recognition for the 200,000 people that have died. Where is the anger? Where is the sadness? The grief? Do we just shake our heads at a president who says they were “nobodys”?

We also lost a Supreme Court Justice. A revered one. And all our government can crassly talk about is how quickly they can fill the empty seat with an intolerable, narrow-minded conservative. Yes, it will be a woman replacing a woman. A white woman. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. A vast majority of Americans want the president and the Senate to wait on replacing Justice Ginsburg. It was her dying wish. Where is the sympathy? Where is the fairness in this process? What happened to majority rules? What happened to decorum? It doesn't matter because old, white (yes, mostly straight and cisgender) men rule this country and refuse to release their grip on power.

What has become of this wrecked, woefully-led country? How much farther will we fall after the Breonna Taylor verdict?

The Kentucky Attorney General is a Republican who spoke at the RNC, and he said Breonna's name. Looking back, uttering her name seems entirely hypocritical. After he spoke, Taylor’s mother said she was glad he said her daughter’s name, and added that “the next time we see him he’s telling the country he's charging all officers responsible for my daughter’s death ..."

Of course, that didn’t happen. The AG, Daniel Cameron, an avowed Trump supporter, announced that no one would be charged with Breonna Taylor’s death (one cop was charged with overzealous shooting; basically missing his targets). How much more can the Black community take with such systematic racism in our judicial system? How else do you explain the fact that there will be no charges? All the evidence in the world can’t justify what happened that evening, and without body cameras on the white cops, they can say anything they want. It’s three white cops against a defenseless — and dead — young Black woman. What chance did she ever have?

For months we’ve been told that we all need to say her name, Breonna Taylor. We did. We repeated it. Wrote it on walls. Wrote it in chalk on sidewalks. Flooded her name on social media. Wore it on T-shirts and hats. Chanted it at peaceful protests. And what did that get Breonna Taylor? Nothing.

For months we’ve seen Black Lives Matter painted on streets, emblazoned on T-shirts and hats, chanted at protests – pleas that Black lives do matter. And what did that get us? Another example that Black lives, like Breonna Taylor’s, don’t matter.

In Bob Woodward’s scathing book about the bigoted president, he asks Trump if he thinks that there is systematic racism, and if he — Trump — ever stopped to think about his white privilege. Woodward is a great writer and reporter, but what a stupid question to ask such an ignorant, entitled, and avowed racist.

Trump accused Woodward of “drinking the Kool Aid” and simply said “no” to the question. The racist-in-chief has never put himself in the shoes of someone else, and definitely not a Black person. But, I’m sure he’s had his shoes shined many times by a Black man, because that's what Trump thinks Black men should do. Shine his shoes. And he looked down at a Black man doing it, just as he looks down on Black people, those killed in the military and those lost by the coronavirus — and Breonna Taylor. What does a young, dead Black woman mean to him? Is she a “nobody”? A “loser” or a “sucker”? A “nasty” woman? Probably all of the above. 

And you can be damn sure, he’ll never tweet in defense of a murdered Breonna Taylor, or say her name. And he certainly won’t try and calm the anger of the Black community and the tortured hurt of the people of Louisville.

There once was a white privileged man, presidential candidate and Senator Bobby Kennedy, who calmed the city of Indianapolis the night Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. He showed true empathy, because his own brother was also killed by an assassin, and he would tragically be too. Among his remarks on that dark, dreary and ominous April evening were the following:

“My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: 'In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.'

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be Black.”

Black people are still suffering 52 years later, and nothing seems to have changed. What have we been doing? And how did we remain stagnant? Is systematic racism etched so firmly in our country that no amount of elections, legislation, convictions, or protests will ever wash it from our veins? 

The Breonna Taylor verdict only illustrates how firmly ensconced white power is. As a middle-aged white man, I’m humiliated. Yet, I cannot possibly fathom how defeated Black people in America feel today. Soul crushing. The streets of American cities were filled after yesterday's announcement with Black, Brown, and white people, joining together in solidarity, in anger and  in agony for the plight of Black people in this nation.

Their pain, like systematic racism, is etched in every protest, and unconscionably, the jury will be out for a long while until something finally changes. In the meantime, what are we supposed to do? These senseless murders, whether by a knee on a throat, eight shots in the back, or six shots at night, will likely continue. That’s the horrific truth. And, the added pain of white police being acquitted will only add fuel to the fire and stabs to shattered hearts.  

As we watch more loved ones die from a virus that will escalate this coming fall and winter, and as we watch our rights and freedoms be torn away by a 6-3 Supreme Court that was forced upon us by angry white men, we will also continue to see the enormous pain and discrimination pounded on the Black community, by angry white men.

Black Lives Do Matter. Breonna Taylor's life mattered. 

John Casey is a PR professional and an adjunct professor at Wagner College in New York City, and a frequent columnist forThe Advocate. Follow John on Twitter @johntcaseyjr.

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