I believe and support the abolitionist arguments in the abstract: It is clearly true that we cannot look to the same violent system that took Breonna’s life to then somehow validate it. The carceral system destroys lives and elides justice; defunding police and reinvesting into communities is a common-sense way to eliminate the need for policing in the first place. And given how often police officers escape conviction in the rare occasions in which they are arrested and charged, asking for justice from a system that routinely exonerates them for killing Black people feels like merely delaying heartbreak. As Kelsey Dickson, a Black sales administrator, told me, “Police policing other police doesn’t liberate anyone. There need to be firings with no new cops hired to replace them.” The goal, therefore, is not to punish, but to prevent further harm.

While that demand makes sense with the goal of dismantling police and prisons in mind, it still feels like an injustice that all these men should lose is their jobs. People lose their jobs every day, and it is hard to reconcile that in exchange for snuffing out a promising young life, the only thing of value these men might lose is their pensions. And then there’s the unequal treatment. Why should Breonna Taylor be the only one whose family doesn’t get the catharsis of an arrest?

Image for article titled Memes Are Robbing Breonna Taylor of Her Story
Screenshot: Twitter (Other)

It’s far too easy for Black women to be left out when synthesizing a movement into specific goals. As Dr. Brittney Cooper noted in a conversation with For Harriet’s Kimberly N. Foster, in a world without police, Black women are particularly vulnerable. It’s a reasonable concern given that more than 40 percent of Black women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. When Black women are in critical danger, there needs to be someone who will intervene. The problem, of course, is that with police, Black women are still vulnerable. So if we’re being harmed either way, why not abolish the system we know for sure causes additional institutional harm and build something new in its wake?

A simple quest to ensure Breonna Taylor was not forgotten as the country entered what felt like an unprecedented moment of racial reckoning became a complicated mass of issues. What we built out of the ashes of the carceral system might be beyond my personal imagination, but these memes, well-intentioned as they may be, merely reinforce the very systems that led to Breonna’s death. And that’s a problem we can fix today.

Update 7/8/20: This post has been updated to include Katherine Laubscher’s full name.