As an ally of the Black community, I would like to honor Breonna Taylor’s life in this article and help the next generation be more sensitive to racial matters. My Asian roots gave me some perspective on how one may receive verbal or physical abuse, and I wish to pursue the fight against racism as much as I can. I took the picture of this mural art on Grand Truck St, in Montreal QC. I would gladly acknowledge the artist who made it.
Who was Breonna Taylor?
Breonna Taylor was an African American medical worker. She was 26 years old when she died senselessly. Her death was caused by a police shooting on March 13th, 2020 in Louisville, KY. Police officers came in the middle of the night to raid her home, looking for drugs. Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker were already asleep in bed when they heard a loud bang on the door. The police had used a battering ram to force the door on a “no-knock” warrant, meaning that they didn’t legally have to give a warning or introduce themselves prior to entering. That night, they were also wearing plain clothes instead of their uniforms. Breonna Taylor shouted several times “who is this?” and received no answer. Kenneth Walker thought someone was trying to break in, so he shot at the police in self-defense. The police officers shot back and hit Breonna Taylor eight times. She was pronounced dead on the scene. She was mourned across the USA only three months after her death, along with other Black victims of police violence, including George Floyd. The police found no drugs at her apartment. The warrant was intended to target someone else’s place, very far away from Breonna Taylor’s home. Her family accused the police of wrongful death, excessive force and negligence.
Breonna Taylor’s death is controversial because she was shot for no reason. That night, she was sleeping in her bed and had done nothing wrong. She had rightful ambitions according to her mom. However, she was shot shortly before her 27th birthday. Senseless shootings by the police ought to have consequences. People protest on the streets because they want to raise awareness about the police officers’ racist actions.
Why do people protest against police brutality?
Amongst the fatal incidents caused by the police, the trend always remains similar. There is a common theme among many fatal incidents involving police: a Black person gets shot by a White police officer, who gets away with the murder with little or no punishment. People are protesting in 2020 to stop police brutality against visible minorities.
Breonna Taylor’s police incident report was full of mistakes. There was no body camera footage. The police officers claimed they knocked several times and announced themselves, but the neighbors said otherwise. Scientists have tried to explain and understand police brutality. They found that predictive factors such as racial bias, bad temper, insecure masculinity could potentially contribute to unnecessary use of force. Police officers should be screened more carefully during their recruitment for the job.
When the police officers forced the door, Kenneth Walker shot at the intruder in self-defense. A police officer received a bullet in the leg, and he’s expected to fully recover. Although the fatal raid was a mistake caused by the police, Kenneth Walker was still arrested for assault and attempted murder. He was sent home by Judge Olu Stevens on home incarceration. The polemic message from Ryan Nichols, president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) shows the mistrust in Black men. It says, “Not only is [Walker] a threat to the men and women of law enforcement, but he also poses a significant danger to the community we protect!” Not only did Kenneth Walker try to protect himself and his girlfriend, he’s accused of being the “most violent offender.” In the end, the prosecutors dropped charges against Kenneth Walker for lack of clarity.
Why do people have negative stereotypes towards Black people?
The racist shooting by White police officers in March 2020 sprung from negative stereotypes and learned racial discrimination. Sadly, African Americans are stereotyped as criminals. They’ve been portrayed by the media, movies and news as hostile, dangerous and destitute. Because of her skin color, Breonna Taylor was categorized as dangerous when she actually was not.
These stereotypes are in part influenced by negatively distorted portrayals of African Americans by the media. Communication and public networks are mostly controlled by White people who hold power over what kind of information reaches the public. The issue here is the lack of African Americans in storytelling. African Americans would be able to depict a more accurate version of their lifestyles and daily struggles if they had more access and influence on public attitudes. Moreover, racial education and awareness is still lacking or not emphasized enough.
How did racism against African Americans start and evolve?
In 1619, the Portuguese arrived in the British colony of Virginia with a group of kidnapped Angolans. The enslaved people were brought to serve the White European colonists as they built and grew their new land. Slavery spread throughout the country. Historians estimate that a total of 6 to 7 million slaves were brought over from Africa. Slaves even helped America win its freedom from the British during the American War of Independence.
By the 18th century, northern states abolished slavery because it was unimportant to their economy. Besides, it reminded them of the British oppression. On the other hand, people in the South depended upon slavery for the production of tobacco and cotton. Slaves performed every job instructed by their masters. Some slaves tried to escape at night to Northern states and Canada. Their journey was called the Underground Railroad. In 1861, the Civil War led to the division between northern and southern states. In 1865, the 13th Amendment was added to the constitution proclaiming the abolition of slavery.
A century later, racism still lingers in the USA. Although slavery was abolished long ago, Black Americans continue to face discrimination and prejudice. In the late 19th century, the Jim Crow Laws allowed discrimination in public transportation, public facilities, etc. Moreover, interracial marriage was illegal. The civil rights movement rose in 1960s to end racial discrimination. Several events marked our history: Rosa Park, Little Rock Nine, Woolworth’s lunch counter, Freedom Riders, March on Washington, Bloody Sunday and the assassination of Malcolm X.
Nowadays, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis triggered a series of protests all over the world. Social media and the news are flooded with support for the Black community.
Why is discrimination still a problem?
Today, 8 out of 10 black adults recognize the legacy of slavery as having an important impact on their lives. 56% of American think that being Black doesn’t help to get ahead in life. 59% of American think that being White does help to get ahead in life. After looking at 100 million police traffic stops, Stanford researchers found that Black and Latinx drivers were more likely to be stopped than their White counterparts. African Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by the police than a White person.
Inequalities and discrimination persist in other areas. Black Americans and white Americans use drugs equally and at similar rates, yet Black Americans are 6 times are likely to be arrested for it. When White and Black people commit the same crime, Black people received sentences that are 19.1% longer, on average. Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy than White women because White patients receive better health care then 40% of Black patients. Black workers are also less likely to be hired due to the name on their resume, and often end up working a job below their level of education.
What are the outcomes after Breonna Taylor’s death?
Discrimination towards any minority is an issue for our society. Unfortunately, Black Americans suffer from racism the most in the USA. The deaths of so many Black Americans at the hands of racist police officers, highlight the ongoing need to stand up and protest for racial equality. People have become more active than ever. They’ve been marching, donating and getting involved in social causes.
In response to protests, officials have made some attempts to reduce police brutality and give justice to the victim's family. After Breonna Taylor’s death, Louisville officials banned no-knock warrants on June 11th 2020. One of the police officers, Brett Hankinson got fired for firing 10 times into a patio door and a window.
The death of Breonna Taylor, along with other innocent African Americans, showed us the important of one’s life. Being colored isn’t a crime and doesn't mean your life should be disregarded during a fatal police shooting. A movement called “Say Her Name” has started on social media to bring attention to other Black women who suffered the same death as Breonna’s.
While exposing topics about racism, one may feel afraid or angry. Acknowledge those feelings. The world is unfair, and tragedies will continue to happen. However, discussing and remembering those events is already progress. You can learn to use your power to educate the next generation. Speaking up about racial discrimination and unfairness is a step forward. But remember that actions are more powerful than words. Don’t ever be a bystander in front of injustice. Be an ally and stop the cycle of racism.