One Year Later Breonna Taylor’s Mother Renews Calls for Justice
Today marks the one year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death. This comes after countless marches, speeches by advocates and family members, and after the district attorney’s office in Louisville, Kentucky filed no charges against the officers who shot and killed the young woman in her home. The sordid anniversary of her passing provides a stark reminder that Black women can’t expect justice in America. Injustice has become the background noise of our lives.
Neither Taylor nor her boyfriend Kenneth Walker had criminal records. Yet, that did not curtail how officers opted to deal with the situation. This incident highlights the dangers of living while Black in America. Before officers fired a barrage of bullets into their home, the couple was watching a movie together. Earlier that day, they went on a date. In his interview with CBS This Morning, Kenneth said the pair “were chillin and being us.” They started their day, never knowing it would end in tragedy.
Officers initially charged Walker with firing his weapon, although they have now dropped all charges against him. As a licensed gun owner, he had the right to use his gun in self-defense. And as his 911 phone call transcript revealed, he did not know that the men banging on the door were police officers. On the call, he said, “Somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend.” He tried to get Taylor medical attention. And even though she worked as a devoted paramedic during the COVID-19 outbreak’s early stages, colleagues could not get to her in time. Her injuries were ultimately too traumatic, and they couldn’t save her life. Walker said he found out that she died on the news. None of the officers provided him with information about her status as they held him in custody on that dreadful night.
Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, has become an advocate for change after losing her daughter to state-sanctioned violence. Since last year, she’s used her voice to demand transparency and accountability. Black mothers are tired of losing their children to police brutality. But it’s important to note that Palmer wasn’t just fighting for her daughter. She was fighting against systemic racism, which will continue to victimize Black women like Taylor.
Breonna Taylor’s mother has filed complaints against six Louisville Metro Police officers for their role in the March 13, 2020, raid and fatal police shooting of her daughter as well as the subsequent criminal investigation, bringing to light new allegations of misconduct in the controversial case. (Riley, 2021)
Twelve months after the fatal shooting and the Black community is still asking for justice in this case, hoping against all hope that things will be different this time.
Palmer has been honoring her daughter’s life by trying to get her the justice she deserves. Sadly, her cries for justice have been denied so far. Before Biden’s inauguration, Palmer took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post urging the then-president-elect to “keep his word.”
In the ad, Palmer emphasized that Biden must keep his promise to hold police accountable for the lives they’ve taken and the damage they’ve done over the years. (Belle, 2020)
Biden began his presidential campaign with an advertisement of his own. In it, he condemned former President Donald Trump for saying there were “fine people on both sides” in the Charlottesville tragedy. His video set the tone for what Black people could expect from Biden. We expected him to take a side and remember who put him in office. Nevertheless, politicians have often come to the Black community for votes without following through with campaign promises. Palmer’s letter to Biden was a reminder. The Black community will be watching to see how his administration addresses criminal justice reform.
Palmer outlined steps she wants to see taken:
➣Appointing Department of Justice officials with a ‘proven record of holding police accountable.’
➣Ordering the DOJ to re-open investigations into police violence ‘not properly completed’ during the Trump administration.
➣Ordering ‘large-scale federal investigations’ into police shootings like that of Taylor, Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, and Casey Goodson in Ohio.
➣Launching ‘robust pattern and practice investigations’ into police departments across the country that are ‘known to cause harm’.
— Tamika Palmer (Duvall, 2020)
While many White Americans still oppose structural criminal justice reform, it’s essential to understand that Black people are not looking for anything out of the ordinary. On the contrary, we want officers to treat Black people with the same dignity and respect shown to White citizens. Because the system is unjust in its current form, it’s incumbent upon citizens to fight for change.
Injustice has become the background noise of our lives.
When Black people fight against structural inequities, White people often insist that we need to be patient. And while on its face asking Black people to wait for justice seems benign, this is a demonstrable pattern within American society. “Wait” can become never in the blink of an eye. Martin Luther King’s words ring especially relevant in Taylor’s case.
For years now, I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied” (Martin Luther King Jr, 1963).
While Americans marched for change, a year has quickly passed. The Black community has nearly lost its breath waiting to exhale. When the district attorney announced he would not seek charges in her case, advocates and artists used their platforms to demand charges be filed. After all, Breonna Taylor was a living, breathing woman. She was an unarmed American killed in the dead of night.
Taylor’s become a part of our nation’s history, highlighting the disparate treatment of Black women experience in the criminal justice system. Officers, police unions, and the district attorney may feel that Taylor’s death was justifiable, but the Black community couldn’t disagree more. As Tamika Palmer renews calls for justice and accountability in her daughter’s case, we should commit never to forget. Even though injustice seems like the background music of our lives, we must hold steadfast to our values in our pursuit of a more just society.