Abolition for the People

Breonna Taylor and Bearing Witness to Black Women’s Expendability

Why #SayHerName is crucial to the struggle for Black freedom

Kimberlé Crenshaw
Published in
9 min readOct 9, 2020

--

This article is part of Abolition for the People, a series brought to you by a partnership between Kaepernick Publishing and LEVEL, a Medium publication for and about the lives of Black and Brown men. The series, which comprises 30 essays and conversations over four weeks, points to the crucial conclusion that policing and prisons are not solutions for the issues and people the state deems social problems — and calls for a future that puts justice and the needs of the community first.

September 23, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron delivered the much-anticipated decision on whether Breonna Taylor’s killers would be prosecuted. Guided by Cameron’s judgment of the legality of the officers’ actions, a grand jury decided that none of the officers involved in killing Breonna Taylor would stand trial for her death.

Cameron’s gut-wrenching announcement came on the 65th anniversary of another jury decision that absolved white men for a murder that transformed the nation: On September 23, 1955, 12 white jurors took less than two hours to acquit two white men of torturing and killing 14-year-old Chicago native Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi.

Mamie Till’s decision to hold an open-casket funeral for her son — in order to, in her words, “let the people see what they did to my boy” — awakened an entire generation of young African Americans to take up the centuries-long struggle for Black freedom. Her simple act demanded that the world bear witness to the profound savagery of white racism and to reckon with the complicitous legal system that effectively facilitated its ongoing horrors.

Like the murder of Emmett Till three generations ago, the police killing of Breonna Taylor and the legal judgment that lent it legitimacy may inspire a new generation to repudiate policing, illegitimate state power, and its legalized facilitation against Black bodies.

--

--

Kimberlé Crenshaw
LEVEL
Writer for

Kimberlé Crenshaw is the co-founder and Executive Director of the African American Policy Forum, and a Professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia Law School.