Who Murdered Breonna Taylor? We All Murdered Breonna Taylor

Kevin Peterson, the writer of this opinion essay, is protesting over the police murder of Breonna Taylor during a public rally in Boston, Massachusetts (Associated Press Photo)

he Breonna Taylor ruling last week effectively allowed the police accused of her murder go uncharged for a horrendous crime that should not have ever happened.

The judicial farce was yet another example of bias against black lives that has become commonplace and that reinforces the stark racial divisions that characterize American political and civic culture. This historic racial division began in the poisoned womb of slavery and extends now into the final year of the first term of the Trump administration.

When the ruling was handed down — identifying that only one of the three Louisville police officers would face charges related Taylor’s death — a poignant gasp of incredulity was heard audibly from the national black community.

This was also the same day officials in Louisville unleashed reports attempting to tarnish Taylor’s reputation. The reports implied Taylor associated herself with known perpetrators of street crime. They suggested Taylor aided and abetted thug life. The mudslinging against Taylor also sought to establish her as a person who romantically befriended drug dealers and violent miscreants.

The besmirching of Taylor was the latest blow against her — a person whose life was lost at a young age for crimes she did not commit. Attorney Ben Crump’s call for the release of grand jury records may well reveal a corrupted process that led to aborted justice in this case. In a case where the facts leading to Taylor’s murder seemed obvious to many of us as bystanders, the grand jury’s decision needs more scrutiny and the light of public review.

At the same time, we must ask ourselves who is really responsible for the murder of Breonna Taylor? A resounding answer returns to us: We all killed Breonna Taylor.

The Louiville police offiicers accused of murdering Breonna Taylor were exonerated of the allegations last week. (Photo Credit: Spectrum News).

es, we are responsible for Breonna Taylor’s murder. We must all — each American — be held accountable for the society we have created and continue to foster: — As long as police departments across the nation are trained to shoot black people first before asking questions later. In so many accounts witnessed in recent years, blacks are shot in the back by policewithout serious reprecussion. They are strangled to death while in the custody of law enforcement. They are tased without mercy. They are found mysteriously murdered in the back of police vans and in local jails.

We are all responsible for Breonna Taylor’s murder when we fail to move beyond protesting in the streets and stop short at arriving at practical discussions about reorganizing police practices and de-militarizing law enforcement agencies across the nation. This means we must use police department budgets in alternative ways that promote the de-escalation of violence while promoting tangible peace.

We all killed Breonna Taylor — Blacks and Whites — by allowing institutionalized racism to linger with our society. We have all been too slow to react to entrenched racial hatred in the United States. We have been too timid to address how racism eats away, like a voracious cancer, at our body politics.

We all killed Breonna Taylor by moving too slowly and too indecisively to call white supremacy out for what it is: a morally corrupt ideology that pervades how we reproduce racial inequality within our economy, how we knowingly segregate our neighborhoods, how we consciously separate our public schools in apartheid-like fashion. White supremacy undergirds the American civic intentionality — representing an onerous impediment against achieving a multi-racial democracy.

We are all responsible for the murder of Breonna Taylor as we sit passively as voting rights are being stolen from us by a mad oligarch in the White House, whose intentions are patently authoritarian. And we fail ourselves when we neglect challenging our elective officials who pander to us while avoiding meaningful racial dialogue.

Yes, we are all responsible for her murder. We must all — each American — be held accountable for the society we have created and continue to foster.

Breonna Taylor’s loss is our collective loss. We will remain lost without a renewed focus on bringing about the Beloved Community that former Congressman John Lewis spoke about during his activism. We are lost without the realization that we are all made in the imago dei — what the theologians call the image of God. We are lost without a firm intellectual and spiritual attachment to the Declaration of Independence which says that we all are possessive of inalienable rights.

The sad reality that haunts our America culture currently is that there will certainly be another Breonna Taylor next week — or, likely — the week after that. Her unfair fate will continue to oppress Black people as they encounter murderous white law enforcement officers who harbor supremacist attitudes.

Only until we resolve to fight mightily for racial relief that is articulated in clear policy reform can we end the slaughter of people we love like Breonna Taylor.

Kevin Peterson is founder of the New Democracy Coalition and Convener of the Fanueil Hall Race and Reconciliation Project. He is a social and cultural critic.

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