Still reeling from the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, Black people in this country have not had enough time to heal. The fight for Black lives is still burning. People are still marching. We are still hoping for change.
But the recent outcome of Breonna Taylor’s case is a setback to all the Black Lives Matter movement has fought for. It is a slap in the face to Black women in this nation.
None of the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor had been arrested or charged until Sept. 23 during a grand jury trial. According to NPR, only Brett Hankison — one of the three officers involved in the shooting — was “charged with three counts of wanton endangerment over shooting into neighboring apartments.” The other two officers, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, will not be indicted. None of the charges involved the bullets that killed Breonna Taylor.
As I heard the news of the court decision and the subsequent public outrage and rioting, I realized how this is not the first time the judicial system has failed Black women. This is not the first time that society has failed to protect women of color.
How do you explain to a young Black girl that the bullets in a neighbor’s apartment were more important than the bullets that took an innocent woman’s life? How do you explain that Black women’s lives have been so undervalued that three officers can get away with murdering a Black woman and stealing her future?
The answer is you can’t.
Breonna Taylor’s story is an example of history repeating itself. No one has been more oppressed than the Black woman. We have been subjected to harassment and sexual exploitation by white masters. We have had to toil fields from sun-up to sundown. We have had to endure the pain of losing a child. We have shouted alongside men fighting for the same rights. We have had to work endlessly to compete against men and still receive less pay. Our cries have rung out at every protest. Our tears have been shed for brothers and sisters we have lost in this fight. Lives have been taken and those women will not receive the justice they deserve. What more can this nation take away from us?
After hearing the news, these sentiments were shared by several young Black women. For Shardai Sallye, a political science major at FAMU, this case is heartbreaking.
“Women are already born on their knees,” Sallye said. “As a Black woman, we watch men, both Black and white, take our jobs, rape us, beat us, degrade us and hurt us. Her family was awarded millions of dollars for a wrongful death that no one was even charged for.”
Women are particularly outraged on the differences between how George Floyd’s case was handled in comparison to Breonna Taylor’s. According to CBS News, Derek Chauvin, the former cop who prevented Floyd from breathing, was recently charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. And yet, Taylor’s murderer evaded these charges.
“This case just tells me that you won’t get charged for killing us,” Sallye said. “We are less than human.”
Sallye is passionate about this case because she feels the pain of being a Black woman in this nation but also the responsibility to change the system, thus her decision to study law and become a judge.
Black women will never receive equality and the same treatment until society realizes our worth. We have to take a stand for ourselves and teach the world the value of a Black woman. We do not have the luxury of waiting on the man to defend us. So today, we mourn Breonna Taylor; but tomorrow, we continue the fight, 10 times stronger. Once Black women rise, we all rise.