The decision not to indict the police officers who murdered Ms. Breonna Taylor does not surprise me. Nor does it enrage or disappoint me.
The police officers who arrived at Ms. Taylor’s house to serve a search warrant weren’t on a mission to kill Black people that night. These officers didn’t shoot at Mr. Walker and Breonna because they were racist. They got shot at and shot back. They were doing their jobs.
Like most of the police officers serving our communities, their aim was probably virtuous: to get drugs and drug peddlers off our streets. They do this job because they feel that they are helping our community.
What is wrong with this picture is what is wrong with American today and what we mean when we talk about systemic racism. It’s what the Black Lives Matter movement SHOULD be about. What we should be focusing on is the system that allowed a warrant to be served on Ms. Taylor’s home in the middle of the night rather than during polite hours while she was more likely to be aware and awake. It’s the system that couldn’t wait for her to open her door and impatiently broke it down with a battering ram. The system that couldn’t coherently answer a homeowner’s shouts for the intruders to identify themselves. The same system that is unable to hold officers accountable when they lie on incident reports.
For too long, Black people have been portrayed negatively in the media, which has led to the devaluation and criminalization of Black lives. It’s the same devaluation that encourages police to disproportionately stop and harass Black and brown people. The one that takes the word of a white person over a Black person. The one that gave birth to “driving while Black.” The one that assures Black children are disproportionately disciplined in school. It’s the system that lauds tokenism and has given rise to a wave of Black “First’s.” The same system that renders people surprised to meet a Black, female nuclear engineer.
This is not about convicting police officers for carrying out department policy. This is about CORRECTING FLAWED POLICIES. This is about building a police force that is accountable to the people they protect. Because there is no amount of non-discrimination or “racial sensitivity training” that can resolve the disproportionality with which Black people are pulled over, ticketed, arrested, searched, or brutalized by police without a cosmic shift in the way Black people are portrayed and regarded in our society.
A lot of bad decisions were made. But most of them were made BEFORE the officers ever banged on Ms. Taylor’s door. If you are going to be mad about something, be mad about that. Ms. Taylor got just about as much justice as I expected her to get. Now it’s up to us to make sure her death was not an empty one.