By Sergio Perez (TheLorian)
I write this article with a notice that the content may be triggering for members of our Black and African American community. While Black and Brown people often know our historical treatment in this country, the resilience developed over our lives sometimes isn’t enough to dull the pain of injustice.
This past week we’ve learned of the Grand Jury’s decision to only indict one officer with a charge not related to the actual murder of Breonna Taylor. Despite the historical precedent of our institutions failing our Black community, the announcement and lack of justice still stings and hurts. Yet it also adds to the urgency of demanding a government that honors Black lives as human lives.
In their verdict on the three officers involved with the killing of Breonna Taylor, the grand jury decided to charge one officer with three counts of wanton endangerment. The other two face no charges. How did the Grand Jury arrive at this conclusion? What evidence were they provided to form their decision? What biases were addressed? Is the government acting in full transparency? Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, simply posted on Instagram on Wednesday an image of Breonna, captioning it, “It’s still Breonna Taylor for me,” with two blue hearts and one red broken heart emojis and the hashtag #thesystemfailedBreonna.
The system has failed Breonna as it has failed so many other Black and Brown individuals in seeking and receiving justice.
The system failed Muhlaysia Booker with her assault and killing in 2019.
The system failed Sandra Bland in 2015 with her death.
The system failed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014 with his murder.
The system failed 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014 with his murder.
The system failed Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell with their murders in 2012.
The system failed Eula Love with her killing in 1979.
The system failed 14-year-old Emmett Till with his murder in 1955.
The system failed 14-year-old George Stinney when he was executed in 1944.
All of these individuals were victims of either police use of deadly force, the police failing to follow appropriate procedures, or ultimately our country’s inability to protect the most vulnerable. Breonna Taylor’s death and lack of justice should not surprise us when the same system of government did nothing for 14-year-old Emmett Till. Breonna Taylor’s death and lack of justice should not surprise us when the same government executed 14-year-old George Stinney.
This government failed Black and Brown ancestors and it continues to fail their descendants today. Our federal and state laws fail us even when innocent lives are taken. Instead of justice, we see laws written that make it difficult to hold the people most entrusted to protect the community accountable. In addition, when laws do appear to be broken, police and other government officials have used qualified immunity to prevent justice from being reached. In 2017, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that the pattern of courts protecting the deadly use of force by law enforcement under qualified immunity was alarming. Justice Sotomayor wrote,
“We have not hesitated to summarily reverse courts for wrongly denying officers the protection of qualified immunity in cases involving the use of force…we rarely intervene where courts wrongly afford officers the benefit of qualified immunity in these same cases.”
The Black and Brown community is not only demanding justice for Breonna Taylor through saying her name; the Black and Brown community seeks justice for her and all those lost under what best can be described as government-sponsored violence. Whether it’s the racism in our daily lives, or the excessive use of force by police, or the state and federal attorneys who fail to seek justice or the courts who fail to check power, it makes obvious sense that #thesystemfailedBreonna.
Many may say that the system did exactly what it was supposed to do, and in many ways I agree. The call for all of us is to understand the full extent of our failing and do more to reform the system, or better yet create a new system honoring human dignity. We cannot fail Breonna Taylor and our Black and Brown siblings. We must continue to evoke her name in a dignified call to change, we must dignify her name by creating a law enforcement and judicial system that cares for and protects Black lives.