Breonna Taylor deserved better

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Illustration: Jenica Rose Garcia

Breonna Taylor deserved better

By Isa Coty

On Nov. 13, her first day in Congress, House Representative Cori Bush wore a face mask with Breonna Taylor’s name on it. Her Republican colleagues assumed the name on Bush’s mask was her own and referred to her as Breonna.

“It hurts,” Bush tweeted. “But I’m glad they’ll come to know her name & story because of my presence here.”

It has been 253 days since Breonna Taylor was murdered. After hundreds of days of protesters yelling her name in the streets, the trial for the police officers that murdered her was held, but they were not convicted of anything other than a wanton endangerment charge for firing shots that entered the apartment of a white pregnant neighbor. Due to the intense memeification of Breonna Taylor’s name on social media, many people can collectively remember her image, but Breonna herself was still forgotten by the justice system.

Breonna was murdered in her Louisville apartment by undercover police on March 13. Kenneth Walker, Breonna’s boyfriend, claims he did not hear the police knock, though the officers have testified that they announced themselves after learning that Breonna was a soft target. The officers believed there was no need for the no-knock warrant that they had previously obtained. Kenneth Walker fired a warning shot upon hearing them enter because he was worried that Breonna’s ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, had intruded. Instead, officers Brett Hankison, Jonathan Mattingly, and Myles Cosgrove returned thirty-two shots into the apartment.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron took six months to charge only Brett Hankison with wanton endangerment because Breonna was murdered in a way that was not illegal. The minimal charge is in spite of the fact that the state acknowledged that police misconduct occurred when Breonna’s family won a $12 million dollar settlement.

According to the “Breonna Taylor was Essential” petition and Ben Crum, the attorney for Breonna Taylor’s family, the police officers who murdered Breonna should have been charged with wanton murder instead of with wanton endangerment. There has been vocal public disapproval of what ‘justice’ has been achieved for Breonna Taylor and the rate at which it happened.

Breonna’s name was everywhere, plastered all over social media once her case became public. Her name was spread widely due to #SayHerName, a movement started by activist Kimberle Crenshaw that strives to make the public aware of Black women who are killed by police brutality. On social media, the call to say Breonna’s name as much as possible turned into a trend. Users would pair a quirky picture on Twitter or a cute selfie with the caption, “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor.” Her name, her story, and her image were all commercialized while her worth was diminished.

When I think about Breonna,  I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my roommate Mick about how the belief that justice would be served could only come from a non-Black perspective of the justice system. He said: “Despite all these voices calling for justice, this system is like this unmovable mountain.”

As a Black woman, I especially hurt for Breonna Tayor’s family. As a Black woman, I am Breonna. As a Black woman, I know that if I were murdered by police, I too would not get justice and my name would not be known if it weren’t for movements like #SayHerName.

Breonna Taylor’s murder was not taken seriously because Black women don’t matter to people like the Republicans who mistook Cori Bush for Breonna. To them, we are all the same. The way we get justice for Breonna now is by never forgetting her, as Bush said in her initial tweet:  

“Breonna must be central to our work in Congress.”

This is the opinion of Isa Coty, a junior screenwriting major from Atlanta, GA.

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