Today, like so many others, my heart is heavy. The savage cruelties of the day have always followed Black women into their bedrooms and homes. As a Black mother to a beautiful Black young woman, I join the countless other Black mothers who lie awake in fear of their children getting killed by the bullets and boots of state-sanctioned violence.
For Black cis and trans women, sleep for rest and respite has always been a luxury.
Breonna Taylor’s death and this week’s grand jury announcement is testament to what Black people know all too well: Safety and justice have never been within reach for us, not even when we are in our own homes.
Many are calling the indictment of first-degree wanton endangerment for only one of the three officers responsible for killing Taylor a miscarriage of justice. But we have heard this many times before; we heard that justice was not served for India Kager, Trayvon Martin, Tanisha Anderson, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, Philando Castile and many more Black people who should be with their families today.
How long can we keep pretending that the criminal-legal system — designed to hunt, enslave and control Black people — is going to miraculously transform into a system of justice?
We must get clear on what will bring justice: divesting from this broken system to be able to invest in our communities and reimagine what true safety looks like for our people.
That is why we are pushing to defund the police and build from the ground up a humane and effective vision of public safety that will benefit not just Black people but everyone.
According to data collected by The Washington Post on fatal shootings by on-duty police officers, more than 5,000 people have been killed since 2015. Unfortunately, it goes without saying that Black people make up a disproportionate number of the approximately 1,000 people killed by police each year.
Since 2005, only 42 police officers have been convicted, often on lesser charges. Only five of the 42 were charged with murder. Let these numbers sink in. Justice will not come in the form of police reform. Superficial window dressing will not stop our people from getting killed because the police have bogus constitutional carte blanche.
Meanwhile, Black trans and cis women continue to be treated as collateral damage. Wanton endangerment, a low-level felony, is a charge often used in accidental injuries and implies minimal responsibility for the death or injury. In this case, the charge was connected to shooting into the neighboring apartment unit, but not the killing of Taylor.
Alteria Woods, Layleen Polanco, Charleena Lyles, Korryn Gaines and too many others whose names we may not even know deserve for us to keep fighting against their erasure by name and in murder.
The paltry indictment in Taylor’s case is another clear and egregious reminder that the criminal-legal system in Louisville — and in this country — does not value Black people or see us as deserving the right to exist in this world and be protected from harm.
The only way forward is for us to keep organizing and protesting — it will be our sustained collective work that will shift our conditions. We will not be intimidated from asserting our First Amendment right to protest. We will continue to push bold, new alternatives like the Breathe Act and work to inspire millions around the world with a radical imagination of what will be possible when we dismantle racist systems of oppression and cruelty.
It may not feel like it, particularly in moments like this, when we can’t find our breath, our anxiety peaks and fear settles into our bodies, but amid all of that, we are steadfast in our knowing that we will win and white supremacy will be a relic of history.
We will ensure that Breonna Taylor’s life will always matter. We will use our outrage to birth a world that allows for our full brilliance to shine through. In this new world, Black women will enjoy restorative rest that we’ve long earned, Black lives will be respected and protected, and we will all be free to live our lives with deep love and dignity. I am making a commitment to ushering in this new world.
Count this as your invitation to join me, beloveds.
Karissa Lewis is a Black woman, a mother and national field director at the Movement for Black Lives. M4BL is a national network of more than 150 leaders and organizations creating a broad political home for Black people to learn, organize and take action.