IIn March of last year, life as we knew it in America changed. On March 11, Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency. Two days later, police officers entered Breonna Taylor’s home and shot her dead. The news of the first instantly shook the world. The latter took several months to gain widespread attention. Perhaps the stories about his murder were lost in the noise of a world seemingly collapsing. Or perhaps we are conditioned to downplay the brutality faced by black women in America. A year later, this is what I know for sure: We do not and will not receive the justice that so many of us fought for last year, but we can choose to honor Breonna Taylor by continuing our fight for Black women affected by police violence and for all vulnerable Black women in our community.
Long before most of the world knew the name Breonna Taylor, the #SayHerName a campaign was launched to raise awareness of black women killed by the police. This campaign was created for the same reason it must still exist: out of necessity. According to reports, 48 black women have been shot and killed by the police since 2015. Due to misogynist – the racism and sexism that black women specifically experience – these stories tend to receive less attention from the media and the public. If we are going to honor the life of Breonna Taylor, then it is our duty to call out the misogynoir and speak out clearly about why violence against black women consistently attracts the least amount of attention in society. This should include incorporating and supporting surviving black women in conversations about sexual violence at the hands of police officers. Results of the investigation indicate several hundred incidents of police officers in the United States arrested or charged with forcible rape between 2005 and 2013. As we know, sexual violence against women is likely incredibly underreported. For black women in particular, studies indicate that “for every black woman who reports rape, at least 15 black women do not report.” It seems fair to say that the number of black women who experience sexual violence at the hands of the police is probably much higher than we imagine. The fight to honor the life of Breonna Taylor must include the continuation of a public, nuanced conversation about various forms of police violence against black women. This must continue to happen even as we navigate incredibly complex injustices.
There will never be a “convenient” time to fight for black women. Nor will there ever be the opportunity to address one social challenge at one point in reference to black women. Black women must often fight while injured. Despite often being the victims of police violence, we are also the key organizers on the ground whenever any unarmed black person is shot. We organize rallies and protests as we grapple with our own individual and collective afflictions. We risk our health by declaring that black lives matter in the midst of a pandemic. Acknowledging this fact is not intended to discourage other black women from organizing and fighting for equity. Rather, it is more of a call to encourage others to fight with us and for us, even when it is not “convenient” and occurs in the midst of great change.
Black women don’t have the luxury of choosing the environment when we fight. We cannot wait for the perfect conditions to be in place to fight police violence. Let’s fight, rain or shine. It doesn’t matter if it’s during the early stages of a pandemic or a year later, as vaccines provide greater hope.
Twelve months ago, we were all trying to figure out how to cope with such a great loss. One year later, we are on the road to a semblance of normalcy. Some are still mourning what we lost. Others are celebrating all that survived. Many exist somewhere in between: healing, injured and enraged to learn that there is no vaccine against violence against black women. For us, we will honor Breonna Taylor by helping to ensure that her name is not lost in the sound of a world transforming into a new normal.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism