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Breonna Taylor and American Justice Barriers

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On Sept. 22, a grand jury announced the charges against officer Brett Hankison, who was one of three officers involved in the murder of Breonna Taylor. Hankison was charged with three counts of felony wanton endangerment after an investigation found that bullets discharged from his weapon entered the apartment of a pregnant woman who was the neighbor of Taylor. Hankison was the only officer charged in the incident, 194 days after Taylor’s death. 

Breonna Taylor was shot six times while sleeping in her home. The no-knock warrant that led to Taylor’s death was for a man whom she didn’t live with. The officers who killed Taylor were in plain clothes. Breonna Taylor was sleeping.

History has shown that only in America is a Black person’s life worth less than the walls that housed her. According to records studied by the New York Times, in the mid to late 1700s, slaves were sold for as little as $18, which is less than the cost of the bullets that killed Taylor. $18 is less than the cost to repair the holes in the walls of Taylor’s home. Why these comparisons, you might ask? For Black Americans, justice has failed repeatedly. These failures have caused generations of us to believe that in America, we’re still worth no more than we were in the 1700s. No more than the property that houses us. 

The property that housed Taylor received more justice than she has nearly 200 days after her murder. We’re no longer bought and sold as property in the nation, but the values of our lives haven’t appeared to change much. If you are a Black American, you are worth more than perhaps this country’s systems have made you feel. Breonna Taylor was worth more than the leaders of these failed systems may ever acknowledge. We have been in an uphill battle for over 400 years.  It doesn’t seem like our lives may ever matter in this nation, but they do. Embracing who we are is a necessary step in defining what we are worth. You are not merely a leftover from the dark past of this nation. You are more than your experiences of oppression and degradation. 

If I could right now, I’d make sure Breonna Taylor knew her worth before this nation’s systems deemed her life worthless. If you are a partner in our march for racial justice, better policing tactics and equality under the law, remind your friends and families that this fight is not me against you. It’s us against the darkness of our societies and the realities of racism and injustice that fulfill the wishes of those who carried our ancestors in chains and beat them with whips. We will not destroy our nation, cities, businesses and homes to show the powers that we are tired of. We will continue to carry the torch of those that came before us as we protest, educate and elevate one another to use those barriers that were built against us as stepping stones for us.

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