We have made a greater sacrifice than anybody who’s standing up in America today. We have made a greater contribution and have collected lessMalcolm X
Just after midnight on March 13th, the police, armed with a “no-knock” warrant, forced their way into Breonna Taylor’s apartment. Her boyfriend, who believed that Taylor’s apartment was being invaded, shot at who he had every reason to believe were intruders. He would later be charged with attempted murder, as Breonna Taylor, a twenty-six-year-old EMT worker, lay in a morgue. Articles around the topic would state that the police suspected Taylor’s apartment of criminal activity. This accusations, whether articulated or harbored in a heavy feeling that dominates the air, speaks to the reality that black people are seen as innately criminal. But what can be more criminal than the crimes cast against us? Malcolm X once said: “anyone who puts forth any effort to deprive you of that which is yours, is breaking the law, is a criminal.” The agents of white supremacy who entered Taylor’s home and murdered her in her bed, illuminate a legalized criminality that blacks remain subjected to globally.
Blacks remain the victims of the greatest crime cast against any human faction. Taylor’s last moments elucidate this crime as it mirrors a dynamic blacks have endured countless times during and after abduction: the fatal struggle to defend their body and space without the horror of hegemonic force. These hegemonic forces inform a structural system that does not constitute wrongdoing in the behavior that murdered a young woman in the prime of her life.
Moreover, Taylor’s murderers remain free, because the same structure that legalized their entry into Taylor’s house, deems the murderous behavior the police practiced as performing justice not obstructing it. Moreover, while an anti-black society encourages blacks to fixate on symbols that suggest interracial solidarity as the antidote to anti-blackness, Breonna Taylor’s murder illuminates the symbol that matters most to the African in America. Taylor’s death and the aftermath, particularly, the lack there of, illuminates that the “African in America” remains disparate from “American.” Thus, any communal demand for justice is synonymous with requesting a seat at the table soaked in the blood of your ancestors. Malcolm X said:
I’m not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner unless you eat some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American. Why, if birth made you American, you wouldn’t need any legislation; you wouldn’t need any amendments to the Constitution; you wouldn’t be faced with civil-rights filibustering in Washington, D.C., right now. They don’t have to pass civil-rights legislation to make a Polack an American.
The laws in place legalize the ability to transition the spaces black people occupy into a coffin. These laws murdered Trayvon Martin twice, the first time they provided a twenty-something degenerate ground to stand on, the second time they refused to assign murder to Martin’s premature earthly departure. Similarly, these same laws enabled Donald West Wilder to murder his sixteen-year-old black male neighbor Caleb Gordley. Though Wilder shot a disoriented Gordley in the back, his actions still warranted self-defense in the eyes of the law, so Wilder walks free despite robbing another black teenager of his adulthood. Only Americans can stand their ground; the African in American must embody the ground own which oppressors stand.
Breona Taylor’s death elucidates what the late Kwame Ture called institutional racism and perhaps more profoundly illuminates the deaf ears to which the final screams of black people fall. Thus, while it is imperative that we say her name and demand that the white assailants be held to the full extent of their laws, it is more imperative that we contemplate our collective goals. The same systemic ambiance that murdered Rayshard Brooks and rationalized his killing informs the silence that surrounds accountability in Breonna Taylor’s case. Color determines culpability. So, as many endure the plight to change laws, it is imperative to remember that these laws, that protect and serve the African-adjacent, are doing their job when they deem Kendrick Johnson’s murder suicide and allow Breona Taylor’s case to serve as a portrait of justice and not a national shame.
Black people fought for a right for a bed. Then we fought for our rights to lie beside our lovers in a conjugal union. Now, we remain espoused to fighting for a right to rest in peace in life and not death. Thus, “I Can’t Breathe,” proves synonomous to “I can’t sleep” as our humanly sancitity remains a contentious topic rather than a natural right.
For this reason, the whole “we are one race, the human race” comments prove especially triggering. How is human to murder a young woman in her bed? How is it human to kidnap a group of people, cut out their tongues, and forever disrupt their advancement? Oh, but that isn’t enough. How is it human to socially reproduce trauma, casting black bodies like ornaments on a white supremacist wall of glory. See, one argument is that blacks remain prone to inhumane treatment. This is, of course, true. But a perhaps a more poignant statement, concerning race, law, and order, is that legislature enables the African-adjacent to perform as if they are not human. This performance, though fatal for black people, sustains the white race. Notably, while history and laws enable and encourage white inhumanity, these same laws function to subscribe to the black collective to an unwavering humanity. The law-abiding citizen. The good Christian. The good neighbor. Whether or not blacks perform this role, they remain held to these standards. Thus, the issue is not insomuch a question of Americanism as it is a question of humanity.
So to think about a young woman murdered in pursuit of a human function, sleeping, we must encapsulate the moving parts at play. The inhumanity that granted access to Taylor’s home, the inhumanity that murdered her, and the inhumanity that vindicated her murderers, must structure our strides toward forward. The contemporary plight appears an effort to hold murderers accountable for their actions; however, what we see here are monsters and monstrous systems. Thus, our strides toward the beauty of equity must reflect combating an inhumane beast that takes systemic and seemingly human form.
It seems remiss not to conclude this post with the viral line: arrest the cops that killed Breona Taylor. However, this request proves yet another means to demand humanity from a faction who invented laws for antithetical reasons. Furthermore, it is imperative that we move beyond fear and request and collectively pursue strategy. This strategy is not in following trends, retweets, or events or demonstrations organized or even attended by those in a systemically oppositional position to Africans in Americans. This strategy lies in reading and holding hands with those who died pursuing what the contemporary climate will die making sure we remain too fearful or vested in whiteness to even acknowledge.
Therefore, it is not about Taylor’s black life “mattering.” If her murder does not engender the masses see beyond blackness “mattering” under the white gaze and incite the black collective to pursue the power in blackness, then Breona Taylor, like Trayvon Martin, like Sandra Bland, like Kendrick Johnson, like Rayshard Brooks, will die many deaths and fester a gaping, collective wound.