OPINION: We failed Breonna Taylor

A+women+kneels+in+front+of+a+makeshift+memorial+in+honor+of+Breonna+Taylor%2C+at+Jefferson+Square+Park%2C+Thursday%2C+Sept.+24%2C+2020%2C+in+Louisville%2C+Ky.+A+grand+jury+on+Wednesday%2C+Sept.+23+indicted+one+officer+on+counts+of+wanton+endangerment+for+firing+into+a+home+next+to+Taylor%27s+with+people+in+it%2C+while+declining+to+charge+police+officers+for+the+fatal+shooting+of+Taylor.+%28AP+Photo%2FDarron+Cummings%29

AP

A women kneels in front of a makeshift memorial in honor of Breonna Taylor, at Jefferson Square Park, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. A grand jury on Wednesday, Sept. 23 indicted one officer on counts of wanton endangerment for firing into a home next to Taylor’s with people in it, while declining to charge police officers for the fatal shooting of Taylor. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

From making her a meme to using her for social capital, Breonna Taylor was taken advantage of. We took advantage of her name and threw it around inappropriately. We didn’t focus on getting her justice as much as we should have. We diverted our eyes to other issues. But she should’ve been in the back of our minds. All this and years of systemic racism led to this ultimate failure. 

I can’t begin to wrap my head around how a grand jury can make such a petty ruling. It makes me sick knowing that they debated in that room about her case and came out with the most minimal and irrelevant ruling. How can they neglect her life like that? How come the bullets that didn’t hit her neighbors were taken into more consideration than the ones that hit her body? How come it’s so hard to get justice for Black women in this country? 

Ever since Taylor was killed in March, I’ve understood  that the intent was to spread awareness of her case, but is that really all we could have done? Her name was diluted into a mere Instagram caption, and eventually used on shirts to make profit. Why did we accept that as activism? We should’ve been more aware that this wasn’t helping her. We weren’t getting her justice with an Instagram caption. Soon there were T-shirts and merchandise that displayed her name, but no profits would go to her family, memorial, or even the Louisville Black Lives Matter chapter. Taylor became profitable before she could even get justice.

We also can’t accept the ruling as justice. By not charging the officers directly with her murder, the grand jury overlooks her death. Those officers deserved to be held accountable for what they did. It also doesn’t make sense why there is a double standard for police officers and other fields. If a doctor were to accidentally go into the wrong room and give a patient the wrong medicine and killed them, that doctor would be fired, lose their medical license, and go to jail. However, when a police officer kills the wrong suspect, they either get put on leave or keep their job. It’s unacceptable that an officer can be reckless about other people’s lives and still keep their job.

It’s important to acknowledge that this is a systemic issue. The criminal justice system doesn’t have the same urgency with the Black community than it does with white people. It took six months to get a ruling in Taylor’s case. We have seen less serious crimes get immediate action when white victims are involved. Time and time again we see police officers murder members of the Black community and get away with it. George Zimmerman wasn’t even a police officer and yet he was acquitted for killing Trayvon Martin. It’s so blatantly obvious that the criminal justice system works against the Black community. This extends from unjust court rulings to the harsher punishments people of color get compared to white people for the same crime. 

We have to look at Taylor’s case in the pattern of injustice towards Black people by the criminal justice system. We have to think about Emmet Till, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, George Floyd and every single victim of police brutality. How many of these cases ended with the murderers walking free? How long did it take for them to get justice? Why were they targeted? We can’t ignore this pattern of innocent Black lives being cut short by police brutality. 

We can’t continue to turn our heads away from Black lives. We can’t continue to go on with our lives as if there isn’t a problem. We have no choice but to stand with the Black community and change the way our society functions. 

Is there a simple solution to this? No. Can this happen overnight? Hell no. But we can focus on laying a foundation to build on. We can start by educating ourselves about how racism is embedded in every part of life. We can start by recognizing the privileges we have in social and economic aspects. We need to take these baby steps in order to be the best allies we can be for the Black community. We have to come prepared to challenge racism. 

My heart goes out to Breonna Taylor’s family. My heart goes to the little Black girls who are wondering if they’re next. My heart goes out to the Black community. My heart goes to those who are grieving for Breonna Taylor.

We will not look away anymore. We will not fail the Black community anymore.