I want to write about Breonna Taylor and the recent grand jury decision not to charge the officers who killed her. Even as I see outrage in the streets, I see uneasy indifference from many of my fellow well-meaning white people.
If this topic makes you uncomfortable, I implore you, PLEASE DO NOT STOP READING. This is not meant to be a comfortable topic. I want to open up this dialogue; I want to create space to have this difficult conversation.
This is not a post about ‘Politics.’ This is a post about HUMANITY. This is a post about long-standing inequalities, compassion, and the strength to look it all in the face and discuss it.
I’m asking you, dear reader, to be brave enough to sit with the issues of race and injustice, even if it makes you squirm. Be aware of the feelings that these topics elicit inside of you. I welcome your respectful discussion in the comments.
Here we are again, baffled by the failures of our country.
Here we are, hearts twisted and mouths agape, as the gates of justice slam shut once again in the faces of Black America.
“New details have come out about the night of Breonna Taylor’s death,” the headlines said after the grand jury issued its verdict last week.
“Because the officers did not shoot first… many legal experts had thought it unlikely the officers would be indicted in her death,” reported the NYTimes. And then there it was – no criminal charges.
“There was not one fiber in me shocked by yesterday’s verdict for the men who murdered Breonna Taylor. Has it ever been any other way for us?” posted one of my friends in a statement on Facebook. She is a proud black woman, a mother to black sons, a dedicated teacher, and an activist for Kingian nonviolence. Her generational pain was permeating her words.
“But even with this difficult rhetorical question,” she continues, “I’m awake to work another day because I still have hope about that moral arc of justice. And there’s much work to do. Hand to the plow and hope and fire in my heart.”
Yes, my friend, there is work to do.
So I write this: to my white friends and acquaintances who are hearing the news and seeing the protests and riots through a lens of defensiveness and fear; who are condemning the anger and dismissing the systemic problems fueling the injustice: OPEN YOUR EYES, STEP OUTSIDE OF YOUR BUBBLE, AND BECOME AWARE. There is much work to do.
Tell me, America, how is this okay?
A man shoots at intruders bursting into his home at night (honestly, what did the police EXPECT would happen, “knock” or “no-knock”??!!). The cops subsequently open fire (blindly and haphazardly, according to reports) into a residential apartment building WHERE NO KNOWN CRIMINALS ARE RESIDING, but rather several innocent citizens, including women and children. 32 shots fired by law enforcement into the homes of Americans. And an innocent, unarmed woman is killed at the hands of police.
Only one of these officers was charged by the grand jury for ANY CRIMINAL COUNTS (and a measly one at that).
After reading the details of that night, I am surprised yet grateful that there weren’t more deaths or injuries to innocents.
Tell me, how would you feel if your daughter – a bright and compassionate woman – was killed in this manner and NO justice was handed down?
Would you fall down and weep? Would you quietly burn inside with helpless anger? Would you rage in the streets? Would you rally everyone you know and scream at the top of your lungs?
Tell me, do you really think this would have had the same ending if Breonna Taylor were a white girl?
Tell me, have you, or your daughter/mother/sister/aunt/friend, ever fallen into a relationship with a man (I’m talking about her ex, Jamarcus Glover, the suspect police were searching for) who wasn’t any good for them? Let him drive their car, live in their house, bring them down, put them in danger?
I don’t know the details of Breonna’s relationship with Glover. But I know I have thrown my lot in with some no-good guys who I let into my space against my better judgment… a couple of times, in fact.
Tell me, does her association with a crappy ex-boyfriend make her fate somehow excusable?
Now pull back the lens a little further and look at WHY the police were there busting through the door in the first place: a flimsy warrant, because a suspected drug dealer (not a kingpin, or a mob boss, or a violent criminal – but a relatively small-time drug dealer) had been seen hanging around this apartment. (Yet, he was arrested elsewhere that night, BEFORE BREONNA WAS EVEN SHOT, remember?)
How is it that we accept a justice system in our country that condones this kind of forced and violent entry into a residential home with so little evidence of criminal activity?
Tell me, America, how does this continue to be OK?
Do you honestly think that kind of warrant, a “no-knock” or even “pound loudly then burst in guns blazing” (that minutiae is semantics really, both entries result in the same startle and fear effect) would be granted so readily if the intended target was in a “white” neighborhood?
That right there, my stubborn white friends, is systemic racism. That is what we must work to dismantle.
So how do we even begin to face this? What can we as individuals do?
Well, I must say, I don’t have any answers that begin to do justice to breaking down this ginormous problem.
But I can tell you what I am trying to do. Perhaps you are capable of more. Or less.
On the most basic level, we must start SEEING and BECOMING AWARE.
Second, release the defensiveness and the “white fragility” (I can’t be afraid to talk about race. I won’t shut down when I hear non-white people talk about race.).
Third, I find action, however inconsequential it may seem in the moment. I LISTEN. I LEARN. I READ*. I SPEAK. I WRITE. I VOTE.
Every small action can set off another small action.
We are all in this together. Racial injustice is everyone’s problem.
Please understand, it is not “political.” It is not “partisan.”
This is a HUMAN RIGHTS issue.
There is much work to do.
©Skye Nicholson 2020