Two years ago today, Louisville police fatally shot Breonna Taylor in her home.
Breonna is one of the millions of victims of white supremacy and the war on drugs. Shortly after her death, to defame her character, justify their actions, and sway public opinion, the Louisville police released a 39-page report attempting to connect Breonna with someone at the center of a narcotics investigation. But we see right through it.
The War on Drugs is America’s longest war. It has always been about race — specifically about criminalizing people of color under the pretext of protecting white womanhood and purity and, by extension, white supremacy. In the 1850s, California policymakers passed laws criminalizing Chinese opium dens and the Chinese people who patronized them by spreading propaganda that “opium smoking Chinese people were inducting white women into the dangers of opium smoking,” and in doing so framed drug use as an issue of moral constitution and virtue.
In the 1930s, Harry Anslinger, a post-prohibition-era bureaucrat, known white supremacist, and first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, led a racialized propaganda campaign against Black jazz musicians who he claimed used jazz and marijuana to lure white women. Anslinger made forcibly entering the homes of ordinary people in America standard operating procedures for law enforcement. Following Anslinger’s lead, in 1986, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which implemented militarized strategies that included “no-knock” raids like the one used the night Breonna was killed and, even more recently, Amir Locke.
The War on Drugs and other anti-Black policies have an outsized impact on Black women:
Black women are twice as likely to be incarcerated than white women, 17 percent more likely to be in a police-initiated traffic stop, three times as likely to be arrested when stopped by the police, and significantly more likely to experience the use of force or die at the hands of police.
State violence against Black women is erased from mainstream media and discourse except as a joke, so the true scale of racism and sexism is unknown. For example, on social media, whether from misguided attempts at online activism or genuine cruelty, Breonna Taylor’s death became a meme, a joke that desecrated her memory and defanged actual demands for justice.
Justice for Breonna requires us to grasp the intersecting stories and oppressions Black women face and to ensure we #sayhername and share their stories to avenge their deaths.
Justice for Breonna — and for all Black women and girls — necessitates that we end the war on drugs, demilitarize, defund, and abolish the police and the patriarchy, and demand self-governance, community control, and reparations for Black people.
The whole damn system is responsible for Breonna’s death. The time is now to transform it.
With love and solidarity,
Movement for Black Lives