Breonna

I Couldn’t Save Breonna

How do I even start an article like this? I want to write something that gives us hope and makes me think I can raise my seven-year-old safely, but that doesn’t feel genuine. My mind frantically darts back and forth between advice I’ve gotten over the years about surviving and staying safe as a Black woman.

Be quiet. Go to school. Don’t get pregnant. Get a good job. Keep your hands in plain sight. Don’t talk back. Be polite. Hands up. Try not to upset them.

But has any of that ever kept us safe? Is there something different I can do to be less of a target? Could Breonna have done anything differently? 

A couple of years ago, before I moved back to Louisville, I was living in Oakland. A young Black girl named Nia Wilson was brutally murdered by an apparent white supremacist in broad daylight. She and her sisters were at the MacArthur BART train station when a white man named John Lee Cowell stabbed her and her sister. Of course, they said he was mentally unstable because white men are never guilty in the eyes of the law. Just like the three white officers who gunned down Breonna have been living their best lives over the last two months. 

It doesn’t matter how many accolades and awards and assets we acquire. At the end of the day, the mayor and the governor and the president and your good white friend at work will still take pride in doing the bare minimum. Police will continue to act with impunity because the destruction of Black life is incentivized. I keep seeing people post about the system being broken, but it seems to be functioning effectively. We cannot acknowledge the inception of international chattel slavery, while in the same breath express our disappointment in the system seeming to be broken. White supremacy is operating exactly as it was designed to operate. It is a tempered genocide that kills just enough of us to keep us subservient while not exterminating too many so that the means of free and cheap and easily exploitable labor can keep on pushing.

Am I wrong?

Am I next?

While Mayor Fischer approved a budget that would make him look good and while Attorney General Daniel Camron strategized about how to sue the governor for keeping the state closed for safety during a pandemic, Breonna’s killers were getting paid. 

Breonna Taylor’s job was to save lives. She was an EMT. She was just at home. Most of us are just at home. Police–without cause or a warrant or any concern for a Black life–forced themselves into her home to take her life. Think of how many times you have crossed through the frame of your door, relieved to at least be temporarily shielded from little side comments about your hair or nails. I know I feel safer when I walk in the front door and don’t have to worry about flashing lights. My house is BBQ-Becky and Permit Patty free. Our homes are supposed to offer some reprieve from the constant assault on our minds, bodies, and spirit.

I tense up when I see the police. I feel disgusting inside when they smile at me and try to high five my son. There is an eerily pervasive unspoken truth. They know we can’t do anything in those moments. Our own people may speak out against us in the hopes that it will bring them closer to the safe negro archetype. Without big college words, I just have to say point-blank-period that I am tired of this shit. And I can’t even save myself, so how could I save anyone else?

My expression of joy in the midst of this ongoing war feels like a betrayal to women like Breonna who have been slain for the sake of white supremacy. Free financial coaching classes didn’t do shit to save Breonna. Showing up to work on time with a smile on my face despite my pain ain’t stop bullets from ripping through her body in her own home.

I can’t save Breonna because she is already gone.

And I can’t help but feel like it’s my fault. The police pulled the trigger, but I was focused, with my head down, trying not to be a target. What does any of my success mean if I can’t keep my people safe? I keep seeing her face in front of a Louisville Metro sign. My timeline oscillates between stories of her death and quarantine games. No shade to any of my friends because that was me too. I don’t fault anyone for posting about birthdays and graduation, no I am not mad at my people for finding cause for celebration.

Instead, I am ashamed of the white folks who exist in ignorant bliss, adjacent to our suffering. The ones who continue zoom meetings without any notion of what it means to have to live in fear and still file your paperwork on time. I continue to be disappointed by our government officials who have not put the full force of their dollars behind the efforts to get justice for Breonna’s family. 

She died in her home.

Breonna should be alive.

Now, I am left to wonder what I should do. Hell, what can I do? I will end this with the family’s demands as guidance for how we should respond.

1. Demand the Mayor and City Council address the use of force by LMPD.

2. Fire and revoke the pensions of the officers that murdered Breonna. Arrest, charge, and convict them for this crime.

3. Provide all necessary information to a local, independent civilian community police accountability council #CPAC.

4. Create policies for transparent investigation processes due to law enforcement misconduct. 

5. Drop all charges for Kenneth Walker, Breonna’s boyfriend, who attempted to defend them and their home.

6. Release the 911 call to the public for accountability.

By request of the family and local organizers, please do not add additional demands that have not been confirmed by the family.

  • POST about Breonna, using the hashtags #BreonnaTaylor and #JusticeForBre. Her story has yet to receive the national attention it must to cause local systems to respond. Share her story, images of her smiling face, and tag the responsible parties. On Twitter, use @LMPD, @LouisvilleMayor, and @GovAndyBeshear. On Instagram, use @LMPD.ky, @MayorGregFischer, and @GovAndyBeshear. We can not stop until she receives a response.
  • MAKE CALLS  & SEND EMAILS for Breonna to the investigative agencies, institutions and individuals in charge and make the demands known!
Mayor Greg Fischer(502) 574-2003[email protected]
Commonwealth’s Atty Thomas Wine[email protected]
LMPD Chief Steve Conrad(502) 574-7660
Kentucky Gov. Andy Breshear(502) 564-2611
Atty General Daniel Cameron(502) 696-5300[email protected]

Featured Image Artwork by shirien.

Shauntrice Martin

About Shauntrice Martin

Shauntrice Martin is a mother, financial advisor, and activist living in Louisville, KY. She is a co-chair of the Coalition of Black Excellence Impact Nonprofit Team and a 2019 Forty Under 40 Honoree.

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