After the Breonna Taylor verdict: A Parable of American Justice

I have been working in my yard all summer long.  On September 28th, I will celebrate three years as a homeowner.  Each year, I choose a home improvement project or two.  This summer and in light of the pandemic, there have been several to pass along the time.  I have repainted the kitchen and entryway, changed the light switch covers, ordered and hung art, changed the blinds above the patio doors, purchased two flat screen televisions and had them mounted, had Wi-Fi installed and a few weeks ago, purchased new flooring for the first floor.  While I wait for the products to arrive and the flooring company to set a date for installation, I began working in the yard.

Earlier in the summer, I had weeded and seeded the entire backyard and conditioned the soil.  It was mostly weeds and I had not inherited good ground.  My next- door neighbor, who has lived in the Belair community for fifteen years, said that there had never been grass in my backyard.  A couple of weeks ago, I planted seeds.  Today, there is a full head of grass where it had been barren of the healthy greenery.

I squealed with delight while on the phone with a friend at the sight of the first blades a grass.  It was stubble but grass no less.  I did it!  Feeling a sense of satisfaction, I turned my attention to the front yard, where I learned that I had been deceived.

Upon closer inspection, it was mostly weeds and green moss.  After an intense rainfall, I went out and began scraping the ground with my fingers, removing the moss.  Later, I put a treatment on the ground to kill what I could not remove by hand.  Larger than the backyard, each week, I took a patch of the yard, pulled weeds and scraped moss.  I wised up and learned that the rake removed it much faster through the ground was dry now.  The weed whacker also sped up my weed removal progress though some roots required that I dig deep and pull them up by hand.

I would have to start from scratch.  Like the backyard, none of the front yard was salvageable, all weeds, moss and crabgrass.  I bought new soil and more grass seed.  It would cost more money, more time, more attention.  I would have to put in more sweat equity than I had budgeted for.  My HOA fee only covered lawn maintenance.  A company was paid to cut the lawn and to trim the hedges in the summer and to shovel snow in the winter… or so I thought.

While I waited on the verdict in the case of Breonna Taylor, I finished weeding and seeding the front yard.  The verdict came in.  No charges would be filed that were directly connected to her murder.

So, today, I decided to tackle the weeds just outside of my fence around the backyard.  I used the weed whacker and pulled up entire root systems by hand.  The company that mows the lawns in my community has arrived and my weed whacker blends in with theirs—except I am cutting deep.  The space around my fence is fast- becoming a dirt patch.  All weeds, I will treat it as I have my front and backyard.

One of the gardeners walks up to me as I am pulling the weeds up by hand.  “Do you mind if I clean this up?”  Some of the weeds that I have cut or pulled by hand have fallen onto the parking lot.  “No, not at all.”

I move over and continue pulling up weeds.  He blows the debris in the other direction.  The parking lot is clean.  Head down, I continue pulling up weeds, stuck in between the fence posts, intertwined, interconnected with other weeds.  I pull until the ground is free of its entanglements, until the soil is clear of the presence of weeds.  I pull until my wrist aches and fingers need to be popped, until my fingertips are sore.

I look down at my nails.  I cut them short for typing and for this reason too.  Still, my nails are so dirty.  I could’ve worn my gardening gloves.  I have more than a dozen disposable ones in the cabinet under the kitchen sink.  But it doesn’t feel the same.

I am in my head, mulling over the Kentucky Attorney General’s decision, when the gardener circles back.  He says, “I have something that can kill those weeds and you will have new growth in the spring.  I have it in my truck.  That’s what we do.  I’ll go get it.”  I thank him.  He walks to his trunk.  I go inside, certain that I won’t be able to face him again.

Because he could have done this all along.  He could have done it at any time and long before I purchased the home.  He had the treatment, the cure in his truck.  It was what he was being paid to do.  It was his job.

I had taken a least a dozen trips to an area home improvement store.  All he had to do was walk to his truck.  Maintaining the lawns in my community was on his schedule and in his contract.  Yet, he had never thought to take those few steps to his truck to get the weed killer until he saw me pulling weeds by hand.

He would never do my lawn justice on his own and I am certain that African Americans won’t see the justice they deserve unless and until we pull the weeds up ourselves.

 

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Seeking to lead words and people to their highest and most authentic expression, I am the principal architect of a race/less world.

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