Representative-elect Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat, said Friday that several of her Republican colleagues mistakenly called her Breonna Taylor due to a face mask she was wearing during the new House members orientation.
Bush said some of those Republican colleagues appeared to be unfamiliar with Taylor, whose killing by police during a botched drug raid in Kentucky sparked massive protests across the country this past summer.
“It’s Day One, so I’m wearing my ‘Breonna Taylor’ mask. A few of my Republican colleagues have called me Breonna, assuming that’s my name. It hurts. But I’m glad they’ll come to know her name & story because of my presence here. Breonna must be central to our work in Congress,” Bush said in a tweet.
It also reflects a troubling trend seen in media reports and academic studies about people of color who are often misidentified in predominantly white workspaces. Sen. David Perdue created a controversy in October when he deliberately mispronounced the name of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris during a Trump rally in Georgia.
Bush, who was also at one point homeless, ousted longtime Rep. William Lacy Clay in the Democratic primary this past August, ending an over half-century political dynasty. She cruised to election victory on Nov. 3, becoming the first Black Congresswoman in the history of Missouri.
She later told reporters on Capitol Hill that it’s sad that members of Congress are unfamiliar with a case that became national news for months.
“It just saddens me … that people in leadership, people that want to be in leadership don’t know the struggles that are happening to Black people in this country,” she said. “And it’s just disheartening and it was hurtful, absolutely hurtful. And I didn’t hear it once. I didn’t hear it twice. I heard it several times.”
Taylor, 26, was shot to death in March after officers with a no-knock warrant broke down her door during a narcotics investigation. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, whose office investigated the fatal shooting, has called the use of force justified. No officers were charged in connection with the death of Taylor. One officer has been charged with wanton endangerment for allegedly firing into the home of Taylor’s neighbors.
Bush, an ordained pastor and community activist who was involved in the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri, uprising day following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer, said the mishap is a moment to educate lawmakers about Taylor’s case.
“But it’s okay because we’ll educate and we’ll make sure that people know who she is, what she stood for, that she was an award-winning EMT in her community, that she’s someone who deserves justice right now,” she said.