Why your Breonna Taylor memes were never enough to give her justice

Moya Lothian McLean
Thursday 24 September 2020 08:45
news

Yesterday it was announced that no one is being directly charged for the death of 26 year-old Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police as she slept in her Louisville apartment.

Former officer Brett Hankison has been charged, not with Taylor's death, but with "wanton endangerment" for firing into a neighbour's apartment in Louisville.

This lowest-level felony offence and comes with a five-year sentence for each count. Hankison was charged on three counts. The two other officers who were involved were not charged.

Reactions to the news were furious and fast. At the time of writing, protests are ongoing in Louisville, where two police officers have reportedly been shot.

Others cast their minds back to the massive digital campaign mounted to try and attain justice for Taylor.

Specifically aspects which didn’t sit well with everyone – and ultimately proved futile when it came down to the wire.

Such as the memes.

Although the call to ‘Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor’ started in good faith, its digital repetition soon began to morph and change.

Soon the phrase was being shoehorned into contexts where it felt less like a weighty, sincere statement and more like a punchline.

Slowly, like other memes, Taylor’s name began to be divorced from the circumstances it was first invoked in – her tragic death – and instead began to be a (well intentioned) meme in its own right.

It wasn’t that people were acting maliciously in using Taylor as a meme; like many memes it spread like wildfire which was the intended effect.

But in the process, the weight of Taylor’s death and the fury that spurred calls for justice, was lost.

Who Breonna Taylor really was – a 26 year-old woman with hopes and dreams who wanted to become a nurse and loved to sing – was lost.

All that was left were memes.

And now people are reflecting on that, judging it to be one further injustice done to her.

The entire situation is heartbreaking.

But in the wake of the failure to find anyone culpable for her death, the focus has returned to what matters: real justice.

No more memes.

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