The police shooting and killing Breonna Taylor while she slept in her own home adds a brand new dimension to the lengthening list of normal human activities that Black people must now be vigilant about doing. We already knew about the “driving while Black” thing, but “sleeping while Black” ups the ante to unthinkable levels.
Taylor was shot eight times by members of the Louisville Metro Police Department in March after they botched the execution of a “no-knock” warrant that was later found out to have been served at the wrong address. The failed raid succeeded in killing Taylor and wounding her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who used his legally owned gun to shoot at the front door suspecting an intruder. The end result is that Taylor is dead, Walker has been charged with the attempted murder of a police officer and not one single police officer involved with the shooting has been identified, let alone disciplined for their roles in the shooting.
While an investigation into the shooting was set to begin nearly two months after the shooting, it took an uproar from Black folks who are fed up with having their civil liberties compromised by apparently overzealous police officers whose disproportionate enforcement of laws along racial lines have disproportionately resulted in preventable Black deaths for nonviolent offenses — that is, if any offenses were even committed in the first place.
In Taylor’s case, there was obviously no violation committed by either of the victims. The same was true for Botham Jean and Atatiana Jefferson, Texas residents who, like Taylor, were guilty of only being in their homes when police shot and killed them. While they were not sleeping — Jean was eating ice cream and watching TV on his living room sofa and Jefferson was playing video games in her bedroom with her 8-year-old nephew — the similarities between all three executions are obvious.
Likewise, Ahmaud Arbery was simply out for a jog when two men saw him, determined he was a burglar, armed themselves with guns, hopped in a truck, chased him, trapped him and shot and killed him in the middle of a road in broad daylight in Georgia in February.
Similar to Taylor’s case, an investigation has only recently begun despite the shooting that was captured on video having taken place nearly three months ago. While Arbery’s name has been dragged through the mud, it’s important to remember that regardless of his so-called offenses that he may have committed that fateful day, he was unarmed and posed no physical threat to his hunters and certainly did not deserve to die for whatever he was suspected of — a suspicion that increasingly seems to point to his skin color.
The laundry list of suspected nonviolent crimes that Black people have been killed over was already brimming with the nonsensical, including selling CDs (Alton Sterling), selling loose cigarettes (Eric Garner), holding a wallet (Amadou Diallo), jaywalking (Michael Brown), walking home from the store (Trayvon Martin), listening to loud music (Jordan Davis), holding a cellphone (Stephon Clark) and being a kid playing in a park (Tamir Rice), to name but just a handful of instances.
The “While Black” podcast was created to address these types of incidents that disproportionately leave Black people dead or in jail for participating in everyday activities that people from all walks of life and backgrounds do on a daily basis. The podcast’s name stems from the James Baldwin quote, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”