Breonna Taylor- her name keeps playing over and over in my head. Yes, there have been many names to say throughout the last couple of years. But something about this name, a young black woman much like myself, only a stone’s throw away from my hometown, hits differently. Shot and killed by a police officer in her home, #JusticeforBreonna has made international news. Even though one officer involved in the shooting has been indicted, the ripple effect of a collective groan of exhaustion continues. I am not here to argue the facts and figures of this case, I am simply here to lament, as a sister in Christ and I pray that you would read on with an open heart.
At times it feels as though people believe these types of cases happen in a vacuum, one devoid of the historical and sociological triggers that yet another death of an unarmed black person brings about. White people have cautioned myself and others to not be quick to see things through the lens of race, to consider each incident independently of one another. However, for me, Breonna Taylor’s death doesn’t feel like an anecdotal mishap disconnected from the narrative of racial disparity. Breonna Taylor’s death feels like the tip of an iceberg; a culmination of historical unrest.
Her death is piled high on top of memories of watching Rodney King beaten as a kid. Piled on top of the negative experiences I’ve had with the police. Piled on top of personally being spat at and called racial slurs. Piled on top of a family-friend gunned down by a university police officer during a routine traffic stop. The mass of the iceberg resting beneath the water is full of hurt, often flippantly dismissed many within the body of Christ.
Within the iceberg is the fear I felt watching my dad get pulled over. It’s the anxiety I had when my brother drove through the wrong part of town late at night. It is years of lamenting a justice system that has continued to pass out disproportionate sentencing. It is the lack of accountability for bad cops among the good. It is the family stories passed down of lynchings back in Mississippi. It’s the story of my aunt as a child having to be seen by the local veterinarian because the doctors in the south didn’t want to touch her. It’s being told that questioning the system is unchristian and unpatriotic. It is my constant tug at seeking to respond in a Christ-Like manner in all things when anger brews beneath the surface. It is even the fear that writing in such a frank manner on race could get me in trouble within some of my circles of influence. And finally at the very base of this frozen mass, hidden within the dense ice, is the menacing seed of sin that gave birth to the whole thing in the first place.
What hurts me the most is not the confederate flag waivers and the neo-nazi demonstrators, but it is the silence of those numbered among the ranks of the army of the Lord. It is the suppression of my own laments and calls for my conformity. It is constantly being called on to forget and move on without dealing with accountability and justice. It is being reminded of black on black crime as if that somehow negates my ability to lament over a different issue. It is the fact that some with whom I have joined hands in prayer refuse to recognize the effects of sin. It’s being told that I am a racist for pointing out racism.
Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” I yearn for the day that our positional reality of being one in Christ can be actualized in our experiential reality. But for now, I simply lament.