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Dear Breonna

Dear Breonna,

It’s been almost four weeks since the editor gave me this writing assignment to me, and this letter is still hard for me to write. I was given this assignment because of my experience organizing after a death like yours, when state power, once again, was untamed and unleashed on a 12-year-old boy. Tamir Rice.

If I’m honest, this feels a little disingenuous. That’s not because I don’t care. It’s not because I think your murder isn’t worth writing about. Not even because I’m a Black man and part of me thinks maybe this should be penned by one of my coworkers. Ultimately, I feel disingenuous because your death doesn’t make me sad enough for you and your family as much as it makes me scared and angry for someone else.

I’m scared for my sisters; I have five. I’m scared for my cousins and their nieces. If most Black people were honest, I think, they’d say they were scared and angry for the women closest to them—to us. We see our daughters in you. We see our cousins in you. We see our selves in you. And that you could find yourself at the receiving end of government-issued instruments of death increases the chances for us all they, too, might meet your fate.

Behind the cries of justice for you are cries for violence prevention for us. What else is there to say to you beside “I’m sorry”? Sorry we haven’t been able to dismantle this racist system that gives the state unbridled power to enter your home in the first place and fire indiscriminately in the second. Sorry we haven’t dismantled the police unions that more than orchestrated the freedom of your attackers. Sorry we didn’t demolish this system fast enough to save your life, that you were yet another sacrifice for the maintenance of white supremacy. I’m sorry you were laid at the altar of our fears for our family. I’m sorry your family will celebrate this holiday season with a hole in their hearts shaped like you.

I don’t know what else to say besides that. … I’m going to hug my daughter now.


Your brother, Joe


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