Op-Ed: Resist, Reimagine and Reset in Honor of Breonna Taylor

Breonna Taylor’s death is a result of our institutional, reckless disregard for Black lives.

Police, judicial and prosecution practices perpetuate state-sanctioned violence in the name of a legislature-driven propagandist war on drugs that dehumanizes our most vulnerable communities. It happens here in my hometown of San Jose, California, as well as in Louiseville, Kentucky, and everywhere else throughout the nation. 

This system, with Breonna’s blood on its hands, cannot give her justice. But we can. We can when we resist, reimagine and reset.

We can honor Breonna Taylor by exposing misguided legislative movements—past and present. We must reject the racist war on drugs that targets and plagues Black communities across this country.

Challenge lawmakers who have built and continue to legislate a tough-on-crime culture that sprouts the daily terror of stop-and-frisk, such as when San Jose police tased, tackled and punched a Black man I represented—all for simply walking around in a “high crime” area of downtown San Jose. It is this callous culture that spurred the aggressive, violent, inhumane tactics that took police to Ms. Taylor’s residence that fateful night.

We can honor Breonna Taylor by condemning judges who blindly sign unreasonable warrants that grant cops legal cover and permission to terrorize people in their homes, including the judge who allowed Louisville police to ruthlessly and unapologetically bust through Ms. Taylor’s door at midnight and brazenly enter unannounced, guns blazing.

Call out the courts that regularly deny righteous motions to suppress evidence obtained from unlawful police searches and seizures, like when a Santa Clara County judge sanctioned San Jose police officers for repeatedly contacting, questioning and manhandling a Black man I represented for merely sitting in a city park.

Courts must be held accountable for their role in endorsing police misbehavior and violence like that inflicted upon Ms. Taylor.

We can honor Breonna Taylor by redirecting police resources to public safety, not militaristic raids. Whether we demand to defund the police, or simply to audit the existing law enforcement budget to promote community-centered spending, we must re-examine and reimagine the role of police officers in our society.

We must recognize that the institution of policing is rooted in legacies of slavery and lynchings. We must recognize that our current model of the cop-warrior sends officers into communities of color armed with guns, in the purported name of public safety and the war on drugs, to terrorize, shackle, arrest, maim, shoot and kill Black people.

This model manifests in daily terror inflicted upon Black people here in the Bay Area.

Like when BART police stopped and frisked a young Black man I represented because he wore a long white tee. Or when San Jose police stopped, chased and then tased a man I served because the officer thought he was a young Samoan drug dealer even though he was clearly a middle aged Black man.

In Breonna’s name, we should reject the well-funded and overprotected cop-warrior culture on full display here in the Bay Area, but also exemplified by the three officers who killed Ms. Taylor as she rested in bed.

We can honor Breonna Taylor by voting.

Vote out the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s attorney, the Kentucky Attorney General and the many local district attorneys across this country who pervasively condone, encourage and perpetuate the unconscionable police tactics relied upon by officers Don Mattingly, Brett Hankinson and Myles Cosgrove the night they took her life.

We should confront prosecutors who overlook, justify and promote violent, unconstitutional law enforcement misbehavior.

Like when the Santa Clara County District Attorney prosecuted a Black man I represented for resisting, even though it was San Jose police officers who chased, struck him and sicced dogs upon him after he walked away when cops tried to detain him for allegedly urinating in public. We should uproot district attornsy who run for repeated re-election funded by police union donations and then choose not to prosecute officers who inflict unreasonable, excessive force and brutal violence upon Black people.

Only when we pull apart the dangerous web of power woven by legislators, judges, police and prosecutors can we prevent future killings like the senseless death of Ms. Taylor.

By rebuilding a new system, prioritizing public safety and recognizing our shared humanity, we can honor her life and give her some semblance of justice.

Rest in Power, Breonna Taylor.

Sajid A. Khan is a deputy public defender in Santa Clara County and one half of the Aider and Abettor podcast. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].

9 Comments

  1. > Breonna Taylor’s death is a result of our institutional, reckless disregard for Black lives.

    No it’s not.

    It’s a consequence of a tragic accident which could have happened to anyone of any race, and DOES happen to people who are NOT Black (with a capital “B”) or black, (without the capital “B”).

    The accident was aggravated by the circumstances of Breonna Taylor’s associations (drug dealers), culturally programmed mal-behavior (“oppositional behavior toward cops”), and maybe law enforcement NEGLIGENCE. Negligence is different than “racism”:

    Healing is not advanced by the intervention of inflammatory provocateurs — like Sajid Khan.

  2. “We can honor Breonna Taylor by condemning judges who blindly sign unreasonable warrants that grant cops legal cover and permission to terrorize people in their homes” — Sajid Khan

    Khan’s conclusion that police were motivated by a desire to “terrorize people” is based upon what evidence? Are the officers involved known to be mindless brutes? Was the house targeted without reason? Does he know the officers personally? Has he interviewed them or conferred with anyone who has?

    Unless Mr. Khan replies and justifies what looks to be nothing more than reckless and irresponsible slander, I will conclude that the evil intent he ascribes to the actions of the police are a reflection of his deranged thought processes.

  3. That Mr Khan and mass media in general continue to use the photo of Brenna Taylor in her EMT uniform makes clear their congenital bias (dare I say institutional) bias against law enforcement and against impartial journalism. Though she possessed a certification, she had not worked in that role. In a long time and had, indeed, worked in that role for only five months.

    That being said, if there is any institutional disregard for the lives of black people at all, it largely rests within too many in the black community. DOJ statistics – as Mr Kahn should be amply aware – show that, year over year, vastly more black people are killed by other black people than by any other ‘race’ or ethnicity. In fact, approximately 89% of black homicides are at the hands of other blacks, and this statistic remains steady year over year. And far too many black lives and black businesses have been destroyed by the misguided, ignorant, or simply violent protests that have run rampant these past few months.

    Rather than reveal any facts to substantiate his premise, Mr. Khan reveals his own bigotry, illustrating that the death of a black woman is only important if that death can be used used to advance a false narrative in support of a questionable agenda.

  4. While we are “fixing” the police, we should “fix” the schools.

    They are wrought with sexual assault and harassment. The government run schools are rotten through and through. Defund the schools. Reimagine schooling. They are just, if not more, rotten than the police. They are part of the “school to prison pipeline”.

  5. Minneapolis is coming around these days on the idiocy of Defund the Police, I guess Mr Khan, your con is almost up.

  6. More progressive misguided scrawlings. Mr Khan is showing his ignorant wokeness. Its sad that this young woman lost her life but she plays a heavy roll in own demise. From sources Ive heard there had been heavy surveillance on her boyfriend and several associates with the use of undercover narcotic officers and pole cams in strategic locations. Interesting that if the cops burst in that Mr drug dealer already had a firearm in hand ready to discharge at said threat. The lunatic left wants us all to believe that she was mowed down in her sleep!

  7. Here you go again [email protected] Sajid Khan! Wake up guey! You are not and you won’t be a leader in this county! You are one of those opportunistic rats. You are always on the side you feel is convenient to be. We believe the lives of Black people matter. We just do not support your Black Live Matter group full of dictatorship supporters. GET LOST!

  8. I more agree with this editorial than disagree. These raids do seem reckless and I think those participating in them probably do enjoy the adrenaline rush from breaking down a door. Mostly b/c I do think the “War on Drugs”™ is mainly a pretext. I guess I never understood the line between some drugs being good n’ fun and others being demonized. Unless dealers are tying down their customers and forcing them to partake I’m a libertarian about what people do with their bodies. I think it was a great injustice that Ms. Taylor died the way she did. Do the other commenting here think not?