What The Handling of Breonna Taylor’s Case Says About The Value Of Black Women In America
On March 13, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was shot at least 8 times in her home after police officers executed a no-knock search warrant. Due to the injuries sustained from the shooting, Taylor was pronounced dead at the scene. Since Taylor’s death, there has been a lack of initiative, honesty, and proactiveness in the handling of her case. This blatant disregard for human life speaks volumes about the value placed on Black, female lives in America. This extensive history of oppression and marginalization is not okay and must stop now.
What happened on the night of March 13, 2020?
Shortly after midnight on March 13th, Louisville Metro Police Department issued a no-knock search warrant for Breonna Taylor’s apartment. The LMPD issued the warrant by using a battering ram against Taylor’s front door. The police were investigating two men who they believed were selling narcotics. One of the two men had previously used Taylor’s home to receive packages. This led police to speculate that Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were somehow involved.
Taylor and Walker were in bed when officers began to use the battering ram against the front door. Officers reported that Walker and the LMPD had a brief exchange before Walker fired a shot at the officers. After this initial shot, officers began to fire multiple shots. At least 8 of these shots hit Breonna Taylor, killing her at the scene. Walker disputed the police’s statements by saying that he and Taylor asked who was at the door multiple times but did not hear a response. Walker, who has a licensed firearm, decided to fire the first shot in self-defence.
An anonymous witness spoke with WAVE3 News and reported that three of the officers were blindly shooting into the apartment through closed blinds.
Police officers did not find drugs in Taylor’s home.
What happened after Breonna’s death?
The police report written following the incident contained a lot of missing information and errors. Firstly, the report stated that Taylor did not sustain any injuries; however, that statement was false. Secondly, the report stated that the officers did not use any force to enter Taylor’s home. It has since been proven that this statement is also false. Lawyers representing Taylor’s family say that by the time that the officers began shooting, they had already located their primary suspect; thus, removing the need to Taylor’s apartment in the first place. It was later found that no body camera footage was shot on the night of the shooting.
In the wake of recent Black Lives Matter protests, the public has become aware of the events surrounding Taylor’s death. The power of public investment has led the Louisville Metro Police Department to terminate Brent Hankison in late June. Hankison was one of the officers who recklessly and “blindly fired” bullets into the patio door and window. Also, on June 11, Louisville city officials banned the use of no-knock warrants. These warrants, which the officers involved in Taylor’s death used, allowed officers to enter a home without knock or warning.
Greg Fisher, mayor of Louisville, announced that his administration would make changes to ensure clarity and culpability across the LMPD. Some of these changes include ensuring that body cameras are on and working at all times, and including civilians in police disciplinary matters.
Sure, these changes are great, but why haven’t the cops who killed Breonna been arrested yet?
There is a bounty of evidence to prove that officers were negligent in their use of power and that they killed an innocent person. Despite these facts, only one of the officers has faced any kind of consequences. Additionally, none of the officers have been arrested.
This is not the first time that law enforcement in America has failed to protect Black women or seek justice for Black women. Black feminist discourse shows that the state actively perpetuated violence against Black women, which in turn normalizes civilian violence against Black women. The lack of protection that the state provides for Black women makes them easy targets. This shortage of protection increases when women belong to another minority group, such as the disabled community or low socioeconomic groups.
Protection for Black women in America is low partly because of the ideologies that are stereotypes relating to Black women.
First of all, America is a patriarchal nation. Majority of the people who run it are men, and the laws that are put in place are meant to favour white men. This makes Black women minorities because of their race and their gender. Secondly, the stereotypical images associated with Black women paint Black women in a hypersexualized, dishonest, and aggressive fashion. These images emerged during the slave era when female slaves were sexually assaulted regularly. Since then, these stereotypes have developed and progressed, especially due to inaccurate images in the news and other forms of media. These perceptions of Black women paint them as an undesirable demographic, thus limiting the protection attributed to them. This is done with the intent both formal and informal forms of regulation will help to control the Black female population.
Society and the state expect Black women to fulfill a certain role in society. We are to stay silent and be subservient to the needs of those in power; however, due to the stereotypes associated with our Blackness, people see Black women as a threat to societal order. This threat attributes fear to our skin in the eyes of those in power and ultimately devalues our usefulness to the state.
In short, Black women in America have low value to the state.
Because we are not useful to the state we are an “afterthought.” This perception of Black women views us as undesirable. It is this perception that reduces the health services available to us. This mindset contributes to the reason why Black girls experience adultification, are disproportionately pushed out of schools and are filtered through the prison system. With this lack of resources and an increase in punishment, the state attempts to erase Blackness from Black women, and tells them to either fall in line or get out of society.
We believe this is why Breonna Taylor’s killers have not been arrested.
Yes, Taylor was an educated Black woman. Yes, she was an award-winning EMT. She was an essential worker. She contributed to the progression of the state; therefore, shouldn’t these attributes and qualities about her warrant some sort of validity in the eyes of law enforcement? Yes, they should. However, the stereotypes attributed to her Blackness and suspected involvement in criminality erases her accomplishments and successes.
Black women do not have the option to live as freely as women and people of other races do. Because of the negative stereotypes associated with our culture and colour of our skin, the public dissects and speculates our every move. Even though Breonna was loving, intelligent, caring, and ambitious, the state only saw and continues to see, another deviant Black woman. Unfortunately, until they remove their biases from their minds and view Breonna as the victim in the situation, her killers will not be arrested.
If you want to learn more about the discourse surrounding Black women and the state, we recommend that you read this.
Angela Davis is a world-renowned political activist and one of the founding members of the Black Panthers. She has written a plethora of books on race, women, and the U.S. justice system. Her book “Women, Race, & Class” looks at how the women’s rights movement in the United States has been impeded by class and race. This book talks about the women’s fight for independence, the right to vote, how gender, race, and class come together to enact inequality, and how Black women in particular still face oppression even though after being freed from slavery.
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