Blood is Thicker than Water
Breonna Taylor, Kenneth Walker, and Black kinship
I’m thinking about Breonna Taylor being shot to death in the home that she shared with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. I’m thinking about how they were each other’s chosen kin. I’m thinking about how white sociologists have always refused to recognize Black families as legitimate. I’m thinking about how Breonna and Kenneth had known each other since high school and wanted to get married and have a baby. I’m thinking about how, during the 1960s, this country demonized Black women for high levels of out-of-wedlock childbirth, but, now, says nothing of the fact that white women have out-of-wedlock childbirths at the same levels that Black women did. I’m thinking about how this apparently indicates no crisis of the white family. I’m thinking about how double standards aren’t evidence of “implicit bias,” but structural intention. I’m thinking about how they softly whisper, “everything ain’t sweet.”
The American State always reminds Black people that our kinship can be “invaded at any given and arbitrary moment by the property relations.” Because, as much as the social order is policed, so is the economy. It was, in fact, the policing of property relations that killed Breonna Taylor. The police were investigating two men they believed to be selling drugs. The Taylor/Walker home was included in a signed “no-knock” search warrant because police said one of the men used it to receive packages. The Postal Inspector told police no packages of interest were being received at their home. That exonerating detail didn’t matter. When armed agents of the State patrol and keep record of Black people engaged in the drug trade, Black people are effectively reduced to runaways engaging in business outside the formal economic structure. The State is not interested in why these people have resorted to such dangerous and destructive economic dealings. It is not interested in bringing these citizens back into a fair economy where they can build wealth and opportunity for their families. No such economy exists. It is only interested in subjugating them for their attempts to evade a criminal mainstream economy by participating in a criminal underground economy. The punishment is either death or re-submission to the mainstream economy through incarceration.
Kenneth, licensed to carry a firearm, tried to protect he and Breonna after assuming that the police, who, without announcing themselves, pounded on their door at 12:30am until it flew off the hinges, were intruders. He shot once and they fired back over twenty times, executing his partner in front of him. Invading their kinship at an arbitrary moment. What has emerged in response to this arbitrary invasion is a mobilization of transcendent Black kinship. Historians have debated about what exactly happened during the Middle Passage — whether Black Americans’ cultural identity was lost as a result of being forcibly removed from our indigenous land and transplanted across the Atlantic or whether there was cultural continuity — but the fact is that, upon our arrival, we chose each other. Because blood is thicker than water. Because common ethics and memory and inspiration can reach across landscapes. Black people have chosen kinship when the State attempted to force kinlessness upon us. Even with the knowledge that mourning is inevitable, in choosing each other, we oppose a social structure which not only tells us that we are nobody, but that we have nobody.