race and space

Unbridled Entitlement

One day and one week after the verdict for Breonna Taylor, many people are organizing, while others are still emotionally processing. No one is surprised at the outcome, but under auspices of the ongoing trauma throughout the year, more people are frustrated. Underneath the chaos lies a very simple question: Why? We are taught as children that if we kill someone, we will go to jail. Despite that simplistic premise, there are many people continuing to kill people who were provoking no one, and none of the killers is being sentenced to jail. Riots may be the language of the unheard, but that assumes that those in power are open and willing to listen. Honestly, the tragedy of Breonna Taylor could be boiled down to two words: unbridled entitlement.

According to her attorney’s reports, Taylor was aggressively targeted for her previous connection to Jamarcus Glover, who purportedly lived on Elliott Avenue, which was slated as part of the Vision Russell redevelopment plan, already funded with federal dollars. The populace has been expected to believe that Taylor was being targeted because of land almost half an hour away from her. However, there was such an emphasis on Vision Russell that few people bothered to research whether any displacement was scheduled anywhere near where Taylor lived. As it turns out, on July 30, 2019, the Planning and Zoning Committee recommended an ordinance changing the zoning from single-family to multi-family at 7717, 7721, and 7727 St. Andrews Church Road, which were all right down the street from Breonna Taylor. Metro council approved this ordinance on August 8, 2019. Therefore, while displacement was happening in Russell, the tell-tale signs of displacement were beginning in Parkwood, the neighborhood where Breonna Taylor lived. Consequently, there was an entitlement to land: remaking the community where people already lived into what the city believed would bring more money, regardless of consequences to the residents.

There have already been discussions on this site related to how crime is attributed to people, whether they are committing the crimes or not. Perception is key, and believing that criminals live in a particular location helps drive down property values. If one looks up “St. Andrews Church Road” on the city’s website, among the results is a 2019 list of delinquent child support. Now that Breonna Taylor has been murdered, it would be interesting to see how the appraisal district values the complex where she lived. Society would be more stable and less oppressive if more people understood that there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” neighborhood because “neighborhoods” are subjective, artificial land designations chosen by people, often with an agenda. The working class usually remains in its enclaves not just because of the cost barriers, but because of the social rejection of their presence anywhere else. Believing that a Black, female EMT was heavily involved with drugs borders on the absurd, especially when such activity would cost her a license. Entitlement to murdering an EMT because of her location in a projected “criminal community” is the mindset that needs to be addressed, not projecting an image on a community.

Most importantly, there is an obsessive entitlement by local governments to maintain good, faultless reputations, even after constant displacement and violence. Either the government stops projecting its entitled behavior on the citizenry, or no one is safe, because all it takes is a projection of violence and disorder by an external source to end a life. It was not enough that the city was working to take over the neighborhood; the residents had to be defamed. It was not enough that the defamed population endured an increased police presence; the police were enabled with “no-knock” warrants, which are supposedly regulated now. Even the “no-knock” warrants were insufficient; the police had to be enabled to barge into someone’s home unimpeded, without a defensive response.

The police not only shot Breonna Taylor, but presumed her death and did nothing to confirm–which might have saved her life. Even after killing her and arresting her boyfriend, the police assumed no accountability when finally submitting the report. It was not enough that the city’s greed caused this tragedy; they had to bribe her ex-boyfriend to denigrate her for his freedom. The city continues to gloss over its behavior with hush money and public derision in an effort to maintain the illusion of goodness. When people have neither ethics nor morals, they can justify anything. The public has seen no apology through the behavior of the city–just commitment to the delusion. Daniel Cameron proved what Obama proved, what the prosecution team of Freddie Gray proved: simply putting Black people in an unjust judicial system does not initiate restorative justice.

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