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  • Zara Oteng

Injustice for Breonna Taylor


The world is reeling over a grand jury's unsurprising failure to meaningfully charge any of the cops involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor. Compared to Blackout Tuesday, Instagram – where I spend much of my free time as a new mother (hint: there's no such thing as free time with young children) – is relatively silent and on my timeline, an eerie absence of guilty hand-wringing prevails. We’ve been spared that much, at least.


Once again, my Black friends and I are having to engage in some considerable, heavy-duty dissociation in order to continue with our everyday lives. It’s necessary for our survival – we’ve been doing it since we were little children. This morning I was going to finish my Sexy Series Part II piece which, to be honest, is drastically overdue. But it didn’t feel right to publish it to my blog in light of the massive blow of injustice that has just been dealt.

Quite frankly, being Black is exhausting right now. I’m completely drained by the images of violence visited upon Black bodies, by the endless news cycles detailing our ultimate destruction. I'm thoroughly fatigued by seeing people like me killed with impunity, and nothing being done. And as the mother of two little Black baby girls, I’m entirely terrified by the astounding inertia towards the life of yet another Black woman – a life that was extinguished, seemingly without a second thought.


As the mother of two little Black baby girls, I’m entirely terrified by the astounding inertia towards the life of yet another Black woman – a life that was extinguished, seemingly without a second thought.


Louisville city, Kentucky, has settled a civil suit worth 12 million dollars for Taylor’s wrongful death yet not a single police officer – least of all the one who shot her – has been held to account for taking her life. Instead, one of the three officers involved in the raid that resulted in Breonna’s death has been indicted for 'wanton endangerment' for firing shots that entered neighbouring residences, although no one else was harmed.


It would seem that charges have essentially been brought for damage to private property, yet no one will be called to answer for the exponentially more egregious crime of Breonna's execution. Just like that, it’s abundantly clear to us all which matters more here. As Trevor Noah of The Daily Show put it, “If only the criminal justice system valued Black people as much as drywall.”


I remember how distraught many Black people were in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. I was weepy and downcast every day, for weeks. Do you know how that kind of pain feels? Your body is heavy, slow, your appetite is stunted. You sleep for far too long or not at all, and the end result is the same: the day breaks and you are bone-tired. Days pass by in a blurry haze but you are not their witness, for you are not really there. You cannot feel your extremities and you are in turn numb, then hysterical.


That is but a glimpse of the visceral pain caused by the murder of Black bodies. That is the feeling that is threatening to consume me once again.


Back in June, I resumed weekly therapy sessions and with that support, narrowly avoided a post-partum depressive episode. Besides the added trauma of Floyd’s killing, I was also highly hormonal and carrying the strain of caring for two young babies whilst under the isolation of lockdown. During that time, I reached out to a friend who had also taken these events deeply to heart, asking her how she was doing that day.


“Good,” she replied. “I’ve only cried twice this week”. It was only a Tuesday.


That is but a glimpse of the visceral pain caused by the murder of Black bodies. That is the feeling that is threatening to consume me once again.

But whatever day it is, this nightmarish reality persists, wherein an innocent Black woman can be shot to death by cops during a completely botched raid and their mistakes carry an indemnity like no other profession on this planet. It just isn’t right. Knowing that the lives of Black women in particular are treated with such disregard, I feel angered, beside myself, but most of all powerless. Because what can I do about it?


In response to this question, I was told by two people in just as many days, that I ought to write: write about the things that affect me most; that I care about most; that move me most. So, in writing this, I’m trying to do just that. I feel thoroughly disillusioned and entirely devoid of hope, but perhaps it’s true; perhaps my small contribution can help shift the scales closer towards justice.



At once, I am immediately conflicted, because this is emotional labour I don’t want to undertake. I still need to safeguard my mental well-being and be present for my husband and children. And all my life, I have been forced to shut it all out just for some respite.


But I cannot turn away from this completely, because I now have a more pressing need than my own survival, and that is the survival of my daughters. I don’t want them to merely survive – I want them to blossom in this world, unimpeded by the injustices that threaten to shutter their dreams before they’ve even taken shape. They must not be crushed under-foot without a backward glance, because Black women and girls – our lives, our very existence – need to matter more to the world than they do at present. So, I’m writing this for them.


And for Breonna Taylor. And Sandra Bland. And Atatiana Jefferson, Natasha McKenna, Michelle Cusseaux, Alteria Woods and countless other Black women whose lives were treated as some flimsy, disposable thing.


They are not disposable to us. They mattered then, they matter now and they will always matter.

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