OPINION/Breonna Taylor: Where do we go from here?
Nov 05, 2020
Breonna Taylor was more than a hashtag, a news report or a caricature created for the world's consumption of Black death. She was a human being whose life mattered. Taylor was an emergency medical technician (EMT). She was the daughter of Tamika Palmer. She was a Black woman who did not deserve to be killed by those sworn to protect and serve.
For Claflin students and Black people everywhere, the months have felt increasingly heavy as people across the country witnessed the death of George Floyd. For approximately 7 minutes and 46 seconds, the world watched as Floyd cried out the deafening words "I Can't Breathe," while white police officer Derek Chavin pressed his knee on Floyd's neck.
Not only did Chavin fail to recognize Floyd's humanity by committing the action, but he also failed to uphold the oath he took as a police officer to protect and serve the lives of the citizens in his community. The impact of Floyd's death seemingly sparked a global movement.
As the phrase "Black Lives Matter" rang throughout the streets, people from every background marched, hoping that those words would be true one day. However, as the demonstrations arose in honor of Floyd's death, another black name was fighting to be heard or rather said.
On the night of March 13, 2020, three men entered Taylor's apartment. Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a warning shot at the intruders. However, the intruders were police in plain clothes executing a "no-knock" search warrant; they returned fire -- 32 shots -- into the apartment.
Walker was not hit, but the unarmed Taylor was shot five times, resulting in her death. The three officers involved in the shooting were Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove. While Hankison was the only officer terminated from the force after the shooting, no officer has been charged with Taylor's death.
When asked about Breonna Taylor, many students responded with discontent. Some said, "It's sad, but I'm not surprised." Some said, "That could've been me." Others said, "Well, dang, if that was me, would I have received justice?"
The bigger question might be, "Where do we go from here?" Although Taylor is gone, the students at Claflin University must remember and say her name, because in doing so, we bring honor to her life and the other Black lives taken from this world too soon.
But we also must acknowledge that Floyd and Taylor's deaths speak to a bigger issue, one that we've seen before. Police brutality, excessive use of force by police and the commodification of Black death are all the products of structural racism. From Emmett Till to George Floyd. From Eleanor Bumpers to Breonna Taylor. As the next generation of visionary leaders, it's time we go beyond what we've seen on the screens and reimagine what justice looks like for the name we know, the names we don't, and the ones we hope to save.
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