When you think of birthdays, what comes to mind? Cakes, balloons, maybe even a surprise party? There’s something exciting about another year around the sun, an opportunity to look back and to examine the potential of the next 365 days. Breonna Taylor would have been 27 today. But there will be no candles or cakes, no future to look forward to. Breonna was denied the ability to turn 27 because a police force that plays judge, jury, and executioner with black bodies pumped eight bullets into her when they broke into her home with no warning during a failed drug sting.
Had the police not opened fire when they broke down the door, then maybe she would be planning on meeting her friends at a bar, just like you would.
Breonna Taylor was an emergency medical technician. Her life was dedicated to helping others. She has been described by friends as a person who was “full of life”. She was a woman with a future. And then suddenly, she was gone. I’d like to see one person who genuinely thinks the world is safer without Breonna in it.
Today, Breonna’s family mourns instead of celebrating, and the world mourns with them. Police violence cuts too many black lives off before their natural expiration date. Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland — and of course George Floyd — are the ones who come to mind immediately. How many birthdays have they been denied? What would the world be like with them in it? How many more black people have to die before we see a progressive change?
I urge you to remember the “martyrs” of Black Lives Matter were living, happy humans once too, before they became the face of the movement that no one wants to be the face of. They ate McDonald’s fries while drunk, they went for lunch with their friends, they dated, experienced heartbreak, and made mistakes just like you. Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were more than the events that made us know them. They should not be reduced to their deaths at the hands of a corrupt police force.
The best birthday gift we can give the late Breonna Taylor is justice. Her killers still walk free, on administrative leave. While a wrongful death lawsuit has been filed, the FBI reopened the case, and the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department mandated body cameras for all officers as a result of her death, it is not enough and we should not accept it as so. Reform isn’t the answer to Breonna Taylor’s death; defunding and abolishing the police force in its current form is. The issue is at the root of policing, and holding a few officers accountable for systemic actions is only treating a symptom.
While one in 1,000 black men dying at the hands of the police, I’m not afraid to say this feels akin to a genocide — as a black Jew, I sadly feel comfortable in categorizing it that way. The killers get to wash their hands and conscience clean, because it’s not murder if they have a badge. The law protects the law, and we fail to see the police brought to justice nearly every time because the system works in their favor.
To quote Angela Davis: “I feel that if we don't take seriously the ways in which racism is embedded in structures of institutions, if we assume that there must be an identifiable racist who is the perpetrator, then we won't ever succeed in eradicating racism.” We have nothing to lose by abandoning a defunct system of policing that upholds inequality rather than pursuing revenge against individuals that represent the collective problem of police violence. Rather than demanding her killers face the same justice they are paid to administrate, we must abolish — or at the least, defund and rework — American policing for Breonna Taylor.