Community response to Breonna Taylor killing and grand jury decision

Sandra Mayo, Black Student Union VP, students share their reactions

Carlos Snellenberg-Fraser, Staff Reporter

Sign made by protestors that demands justice, peace, and respect for the Taylor family over police brutality. (Brandon Bee)

On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville police officers when they raided her home while she was asleep.

In the wake of Taylor’s killing, protests sparked in every corner of the country. Currently protests have been taking place frequently in Seattle. These protests have brought awareness to racial injustice issues that affect the nation. As more developments come forth, calls for reform and change continue to be demanded and consistently shape the public discourse around police killings.

Vice Provost for Inclusive Excellence Dr. Sandra Mayo discussed the impact that the case has had on the national discussion around injustice in the American system, and her role in encouraging inclusivity on campus.

“In my particular role here on campus, this work for me around diversity, equity and inclusion, it has always been about honoring human dignity. To me, that is a core principle. It is also about confronting systems that dehumanize,” Mayo said.

Mayo believes there is a difference in examining this case from a legal perspective and from a Christian perspective.

“There is a tendency for conversations to move in a direction of ‘let’s wait until we have all of the facts,’” Mayo explained, “But as citizens in this world, not functioning in a legal capacity, and particularly as Christians, our calling is different. For me and for us, the question should be ‘was Breonna treated in a manner that showed respect for her inherent dignity and worth as a human being?’ I think we can say no. When someone is shot in their home in a private space, while they are sleeping, then it is undeniable, tragic, inhumane loss.”

A flower memorial in honor of Breonna Taylor sits in front of the Seattle Federal Courthouse. (Brandon Bee)

Mayo hopes that the Taylor case can encourage meaningful change on campus and throughout the SPU community. Mayo also believes that citizen action and educated voting is the most impactful thing we can do to create change.

“As far as what each person can do, we have to be actively engaged. And to know local officials and political officials at every level, and know what we are voting for and voting in,” said Mayo.

“Those decisions are really going to shape the social landscape and the types of loss and the types of decisions we see in these cases. This is a time to be wide awake. To pay attention. Do not let the discouragement of these times lead to apathy. This is a time to press in,” continued Mayo.

Madison Moody, Vice President of the SPU Black Student Union, discussed her reaction to the killing of Breonna Taylor.

“My initial reaction to the murder of Breonna Taylor was a massive sigh. I will never get used to hearing traumatic stories like hers, but sometimes I don’t possess the energy to be upset. I felt a mixture of intense disappointment and hopelessness for our country and for black lives,” said Moody.

Moody was asked what she believes should be done in order to create the most impactful change in the nation. 

“We need change within every powerful system that controls our country; the way police are trained, entire judicial system, creating better laws against discrimination, creating more programs in underprivileged areas, defunding the police, prison reform, and perhaps a capable president who condemns white supremacy,” Moody responded.

Darius Safari, third year student, and former Vice President of the Black Student Union at Central Oregon Community College, felt very overwhelmed by the death of Breonna Taylor.

“It is overwhelming to see all of the killings that happen everyday. We are still mourning Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.”

Transit stop with graffiti written over it demanding justice for Breonna Taylor. (Brandon Bee)

Safari thinks that the United States is stuck in a broken cycle of racial injustice with a never ending discussion.

“You need to keep in mind, this thing has been going on and on for a long time. People like us kept saying ‘We need change, we need change.’ And it is the same conversation that just continues to cycle. You can go back to Martin Luther King and see this conversation take place. Moving forward, there should be reform,” Safari said, “If Congress does not act, the same outcome will keep happening.”

Maddie Batiste, fourth-year student, had an initial reaction of “pure disgust” when finding out about the killing of Breonna Taylor.

“I was not shocked by the fact that it was a police force killing, and even less surprised to hear it was an African American woman. As one myself, I am all too familiar with the threat that police are to my life,” said Batiste.

When it comes to changes and reform, Batiste said, “The systemic racism that has been rooted so deep in the conscience of Americans is toxic and I believe this is a major change that needs to be made. The countless amount of black people that have been murdered at the hands of the people whose job it is to ‘serve and protect’ is absurd.”

Batiste continued, “As someone who cares a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement, I demand change and use my voice to sign petitions, vote, peacefully protest, and work against racism in my everyday life.”