Op-Ed: Please Stop Turning Breonna Taylor’s Death Into A Meme

Justice is not a joke.

It’s been over 100 days since the killing of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old EMT who was shot during a botched police raid. Since months have passed and the officers involved have yet to be arrested, people are taking to social media to rally for justice. The sense of community is admirable, and is a direct result of the digital connectivity fostered during the early days of Black Lives Matter movement. In this instance though, how people are going about garnering attention for Breonna Taylor is a cause for concern, as many are turning to memes to “spread the word.”

On June 11, Twitter user @_undeefeated wrote, “My name is Junie B Jones and the B stands for Breonna Taylor Killers Need To Be Locked The F— Up.” The now-deleted tweet gained traction, but also received criticism for linking gross social injustice to a children’s book. While social media users are trying to spread awareness, they still must think critically about Breonna Taylor’s death, specifically how off-putting it is to mesh the gravity of her killing with the light-hearted tone of the memes that are circulating. What’s being done is confusing, and sets a precedent for other Black women’s deaths to serve as the basis of a trend.

What does it say about our generation if the killing of a Black woman can only grasp attention if it’s connected to a joke or a celebrity reference? Or that certain people have to be tricked into caring?

Writer Jhaunay-Amanie Hernandez was among those to go viral for admonishing meme-makers to stop creating content around the death of Breonna Taylor.

The deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery have not been reacted to (on a mass scale) in the same way as Taylor’s. Both deaths, and the aftermaths, have been well-documented online and are generally addressed with the utmost seriousness. Additionally, protests have ensued around the world, as citizens realize that white supremacy and its effects have ravaged America. A Black woman’s legacy should be honored in the same way.

We have to consider the nature of memes, and how they often completely separate the joke/context from the person. Yes, we use them to convey emotions, and to learn, but there have to be boundaries in place. Eagerness for change cannot include diluting information for the sake of going viral.

Photo credit: New York Post

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