The Police Called Breonna Taylor a ‘Soft Target.’ She Wasn’t the First.
Since before this country’s founding, Black women have been treated as vulnerable—and disposable
12:38 a.m. was the last peaceful minute of Breonna Taylor’s life.
On March 13, 2020, at 12:38 a.m., Breonna Taylor and her partner, Kenneth Walker, were asleep in bed. At 12:39 a.m., officers beat on her door for approximately one minute. During that 59 seconds of banging, Taylor shouted at the top of her lungs: “Who is it?” But no one said a word. “No answer,” Walker said later in a police interrogation. “No response. No anything.” The boogeymen kept beating. At 12:40 a.m., Louisville Metro Police Department Officers Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison as well as Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly — all in plain clothes — shattered the forest green front door of Breonna Taylor’s apartment with a battering ram.
The police blindly shot over 20 rounds of bullets into Breonna’s home. Eight of those bullets found their way into Breonna’s Black body, killing her.
Roughly two weeks later, Mattingly spoke with Louisville Police internal investigators. During that conversation, he said that officers had been told that Taylor’s ground floor apartment was a “soft target” — and that Taylor too was a soft target because she “should be there alone.”
A soft target is a person, location, or thing that is deemed to be unprotected. Vulnerable. Powerless against military or terrorist attacks. Attacking soft targets is meant to “disrupt daily life, spread fear.” To destroy dignity. To ambush and bring unexpected carnage. In 1845, attacking soft targets is how J. Marion Sims, considered the father of modern gynecological studies, was permitted to experiment on enslaved Black women — without consent, without anesthesia, and without consideration of their humanity.
In 2015, attacking soft targets is what led to 13 Black women testifying against Daniel Holtzclaw, at the time a police officer in Oklahoma City. They spoke of how Holtzclaw targeted them during traffic stops and interrogations, forced them into sexual acts in his police car or in their homes. Holtzclaw “deliberately preyed on vulnerable Black women from…