July 15, 2020 Opinion

Written by:

Kyiah Oliver was born and raised in Memphis and now resides in Atlanta. She is a writer who wants to use her creativity to tell the stories of others and illuminate the importance of your unique journey. Follow Kyiah on Twitter

Breonna Taylor was killed by three plain-clothes police officers in her home on March 13, 2020.

 

She was in bed, unarmed, and shot fatally after the officers entered her home using a no-knock search warrant. She was an emergency medical technician and 26 years old. No arrests have been made in Breonna’s case.

Her story did not begin to make headlines until the weeks following the murder of George Floyd. There was a literal outpouring of support across social media platforms demanding that something to be done; that the officers be arrested and held accountable.

Breonna Taylor’s name was said during protests in line with countless other names of people whose only crime was the color of their skin. Then things began to get silent; the posts slowed, the hashtags became less frequent. The light attached to her story seems to be dimming.

This is not right.

I am not here to rehash the events of what happened to Breonna Taylor, nor am I here to be irate and curse the masses for not taking this more seriously.

I am simply here to tell you how this feels.

However, that is not as easy as I thought. I thought that I would be able to sit and write about how enraged I am and use a very eloquent stream of words to convince you to stand with me and bring awareness to this case and demand action, but honestly, this is hard.

It is difficult to watch this story slowly grow silent and really pinpoint how I feel. If I am being honest, I am disappointed that this is happening, but not surprised. The treatment of Breonna Taylor, even in her death, is a testament to how African American women have been treated for quite some time.

Prosecute_Killer_Cops_Atlanta_Protest
As an African American woman, I do not have to look too far into history to see how society has reacted to my existence. I just have to look at my grandmother, Toyin Salau, my friend who has to take a very specific way home, a former First Lady, my aunt who rewords an email “because of how it might come off.”

Honestly, I feel too many emotions to put into a concise sentence or collection of sentences.

So I decided that I needed more voices.

Below are some statements that I collected from some of the African American women in my life. I ask that you not only read their words but sit with them.

Hear them, take them in, respect them.

White_Silence_Compliance_Protest

Testimony #1, age 23

“It makes me feel two things. On the one hand, it makes me feel hopeful because I see that there are people who care. I see that there are people who want to be sure that this is just not another story that is pushed under the rug. People are literally using their voices, their platforms, signing petitions, and calling officials. There are public protests and things of that sort that people are engaging in to make sure that justice is served; in order to make sure that the officers who murdered her are arrested and charged for what they did. It makes me hopeful to see people not letting up. It makes me hopeful to know that there are people who genuinely care about African American women.”

“On the other hand, it makes me-it grieves me. It makes me feel saddened because of the fact that this has to be held up by Instagram posts & a hashtag. It shows on one hand that African American women in this country are definitely a marginalized population. It brings up feelings about Toyin. She went to the police. She did what she thought she should do in order to feel protected, and she was failed. With Breonna Taylor’s case, I feel like if there wasn’t so much pushing by the public, her story would be one where she was failed. So, it grieves me to know that this has to be the case for an African American woman’s life to be valued.”

Testimony #2, age 24

“In regards to the Breonna Taylor case and how it makes me feel, knowing that we’re constantly put lower than anyone else. It makes me feel like we’re never going to catch a break; we’re never going to get a chance to breathe. We’re never going to have ourselves put first by other people, especially not people outside of our race. Even people within our race; Black men and some Black women who have been brainwashed by white supremacy and the men of our race.”

“It makes me feel like ain’t nobody got us but us. It’s just Black Women v. The World. It makes me feel like we are forever going to be the other, even within our own race because we’re never going to be put first.”

“It’s never going to be us lifted up by the masses.”

White_Silence_Compliance_Say_Their_Names_ATL

Testimony #3, age 40

“The case of Breonna Taylor is disheartening. It’s already challenging to be African American. It’s a double plight to be African American coupled with being a woman.”

“For her family to have to deal with this injustice and cruelty for 124 days to date  I believe is like experiencing her death over and over again. It’s like being punished for something that already pains you.”

“A search warrant shouldn’t result in an innocent human being fatally shot. Something has to CHANGE. We can’t forget about her. Say her name.”

Testimony #4, age 23:

“The main question that comes to mind is ‘Who will weep for us?’”

“We are brutalized in more than one way by more than one group. We have to think about the trauma and pain we deal with as Black women in families. In our own households, on our own jobs, our micro-aggressions.”

“The situation makes me feel powerless as a Black woman that no one is there to aid us when we need it.”

“We’re still being harassed on all fronts and we need to look beyond Black Lives Matter and do something for ourselves. For our daughters.”

Testimony #5, age 23:

“It continues to make me feel unsafe, especially when I am located where people say, and I quote, ‘the further East you go in Tennessee the more racist it gets.’ Being in Middle Tennessee, I’m in this melting pot of allies and people who don’t like me because of my skin color. It still has me at a standstill.”

“When I have to talk to the police, I don’t know what they’ll say or do. Hell, they came into her house and killed her in her sleep. Could that happen to me even though I live in this ‘nice apartment complex?’ Could I be the next person that wants to go home and they think I’m up to no good?”

“Could I be the next one?”

“So it has me with my head on a swivel because it boosts the you never know what could happen aspect.”

“As a Black woman, we are the most hated, most uncared for people in America, so it’s kind of hard for you to sit up here and go through this type of thing. It’s heartbreaking. It’s being blown over at this point.”

“Overall, I’m a ball of emotions; of fear, nervousness, anger, on edge all of the time. Just making sure that I’m safe, my friends are safe, my people are safe.”

“It’s a lot of emotions. It really is a lot to bundle how you feel in a couple of sentences. It’s a longer conversation that needs to be had.”

Testimony 6, age: 23

“As a Black woman, it can be difficult to unplug and remove yourself from the gruesome news cycle in which people, women, who look just like you are experiencing and succumbing to state-sanctioned violence in a variety of ways.”

“In the past few weeks, this feeling has only intensified, leaving Black women who stay on top of current events in a whirlwind. It is extremely scary, exhausting, and overwhelming to consider the dozens of ways that Black women could die simply for existing, but the most distressing thing is the ignorance and often naïveté of non-Black people – women included.”

“As Black women, we do not have the option to be disengaged on topics of racism, sexism, gender-based violence, health disparities, and police brutality because our livelihood depends on the eradication of these things. It is disheartening to watch your non-Black peers, and sometimes your Black ones, disregard your struggles and attribute it to individual acts/actors.”

“It is my hope that the re-iteration of the Black Lives Matter movement brings actual justice for Breonna Taylor, Toyin Salau, Sha-Asia Washington, Riah Milton, and Brayla Stone and that we work to eliminate further harm to Black women by dismantling and re-building these violent systems through active anti-racist work.”

BLM Atlanta Protest

Testimony #7, age 22:

“When I think about Breonna Taylor and her case, the outcome of it, and how it transpired, I think about how it mirrors and reflects the experience of Black women. Even in her death-her death was kind of the platform to create a new law in the city of Louisville, however, the original offense of her death has yet to be acknowledged, has yet to be investigated, and has yet to be resolved. She has yet to receive the true justice that she deserves, yet they were very quick to put in law into effect so that people do not go through what she went through. However, the woman who literally lost her life, she didn’t give it. She was asleep. Her life was snatched from her in such a brutal way for this law to be made against no-knock warrants, but here we are months later and her family is still grieving with no justice.”

“Her family has a hole to fill that they can’t fill because the justice system has once again failed a Black woman. We failed another Black woman whose name fell on deaf ears. We failed another Black woman who made way for other people to be saved later, yet her life doesn’t matter to that degree. We failed another Black woman.”

“We failed Sandra. We failed Breonna. We failed so many Black women in the past and it makes me wonder: when will it stop?”

“When will we get it right? When will we make the decision to stand up for Black women after they have stood by so many significant figures over time? When will we make the decision to stand behind Black women as much as we stand behind other people of color? When will we not be on the back burner? When will we actually be considered a member of a society that we helped create?”

“When will we become essential?”

Testimony #8, age 46

“As a Black woman, I feel hurt, I feel angry, I feel disappointed. I also feel sorry. I also feel, as a mother, how it feels for a mother to lose a child. As it pertains to this story about Breonna Taylor, I think so many people don’t look at the Black woman as valuable. I look at the story- I’ve been listening to the story and how the police haven’t been charged, and how she did nothing wrong to put herself in a situation where she should have died at such a young, early age.”

“The Black woman is not defended; she’s not taken care of, she’s not provided for. So many Black women are already struggling to try to make ends meet without Black men. So many of us are struggling and have such a hard time dealing with life in general without the assistance of the Black man.”

“We are not valued enough.”

“We are almost invisible in comparison to other women; the Chinese woman, the White woman, the Indian woman. Any other race is valued more by their men than the Black woman. I’m not saying that all men don’t value us, just some of them don’t know how to love us and treat us. I feel that this era that we’re in that the Black woman is just not valued enough. We are not loved enough. We’re not getting enough love from the people around us, we’re not getting enough encouragement, we’re not getting enough help, so we have to be a ‘strong Black woman.’ We’ve got to work hard and strive hard, but we don’t always want to be the strong Black woman.”

“We want to be vulnerable.”

“I just feel like it’s already hard enough for the Black woman. It’s already hard enough that we don’t have our men, we’re raising our children alone, we have to work two and three jobs. It’s already hard enough for us in this society.”

“We have to be the stronger ones, we have to work harder at trying to accomplish things, and then when we do accomplish things, we are not given credit for the work that has been done.”

“Breonna was establishing herself; she was making her mark in the world. She was becoming a Black woman of substance; she was trying to make a way for her family and herself. She was taken away too soon.”

“She was working towards her goals of becoming a Black woman that other Black women can look up to.”

“I feel like what has happened to Breonna, and other Black women who have been taken out prematurely, makes us have to be strong enough to deal with the fact that this could happen to me.”

I could be in my own home that I’ve been working hard to achieve, I’ve been working to have the best things for my family, for my children, for myself, and not even have peace in my own home without it being abruptly interrupted to have my life snatched away from me.”

“Breonna Taylor’s life was snatched away from her. She had no idea that that night would’ve been her last night. It’s hard already for Black women. Every time I hear about what has happened to the Black man and Black woman to keep us separated and keep us down I feel so… I just feel like no one sees us. No one can see us as Black women.”

“No one can see us.”

“It’s not like closing your eyes and not being able to see someone, it’s looking directly at a Black woman, and still not being able to see her.”

Being Black in America is hard. Being a Black woman in America is exhausting.

Day after day of providing, helping, and putting others first, and still not being able to be valued, appreciated, or even seen. Breonna Taylor should still be alive, and even in her death, she deserves the same respect, support, and justice as other African Americans who have had their lives taken from them.

Fight for her. Stand for her. Tell her story. Then do the same for the African American women in your life.

Arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor.

Say Her Name Breonna Taylor

Editor’s note – photo credits to Julieann Tran

7 Responses to “Breonna Taylor: How Her Story Illuminates the Experience of a Black Woman in America”

  1. T’Keyah

    You did amazing babe! This is beautiful and not only that but you’re continuing to spotlight Breonna Taylor in hopes that we see justice served. Amazing.

    Reply
  2. Quay

    Thank you so much for writing this. I felt every word.. Society treats us like an afterthought. We’re side characters even in our own stories. From Breona Taylor and Sandra Bland (who were only brought to attention after George Floyd and Mike Brown) to the many other black women killed by police violence who went ignored to all the many little black girls who go missing and have no one but their families looking for them. And the ones who escape from capters (like Erica Pratt, the 6 year old who escaped from a kiddnapper the same day Elizabeth smart was kidnapped), their stories go untold. Names unheard. Even our young girls are expected to be “strong black women.” The intersectionality of being black and female and the lack of care society often seems to have about our struggles is maddening. It’s an extra layer of societal vulnerability that shouldn’t exist and has to be addressed.

    Reply

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