March 13, 2020 is a date that the city of Louisville, Kentucky will (and should) never forget.
In a place once known as the Possibility City, cries for justice and police accountability continue to go unheard one year after the deadly police raid that took Breonna Taylor’s life.
With record-breaking protests and a year-long pandemic, 2020 was a historic year for Louisville in unexpected ways. 2020 saw more people killed by gun violence in Louisville than at any time in the city’s 108-year history. City-wide data shows at least 170 criminal homicides occurred and more than 550 shootings, impacting victims—more than 70% of who, were victims of color. This year is no different, with homicide and gun violence rates already higher than last year.
Still, we should not remember Breonna Taylor’s story and the ensuing city response as just another homicide statistic from West Louisville. The killing of Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, and countless other unnamed victims of state-inflicted violence is the culmination of neglect, discrimination, and a long history of police brutality and mistreatment that have led to an unnecessary loss of life citywide.
From the outside looking in, the police and some elected officials could face liability for Taylor and McAtee’s death. Perhaps this is why the Louisville Metro Council voted to ban no-knock warrants in January, with current no-knock legislation also under consideration in the state legislature. To outspoken objectors demanding justice for Taylor and her family, rudimentary ‘justice’ held officers accountable for only the bullets that missed Breonna Taylor, with no convictions of the officers who took her life. With all eyes on the events unfolding in Louisville, the city has continued to fail to use its institutional power to protect Black and Brown lives.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed federal legislation to ban no-knock warrants through the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act on March 3. Introduced in the House Judiciary committee last year, the Justice in Policing Act bans no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and allocates funding for state governments to ban no-knock warrants at local and state levels. Following Taylor’s death, Floyd’s arrest and death sparked a similar outrage and outcry for justice across the country to address police brutality and discrimination against unarmed Black men and women. The legislation could provide critical progress in Kentucky for statewide protections in communities of color against police violence and misconduct.
This isn’t the first time Black lives have been cut short in the name of ignorance and discrimination. It is not the first-time cries for justice and accountability have been ignored, nor is it the first time the pain of an entire community and city has gone untreated. In the case of Breonna Taylor and her family, inaction and paralysis have been the loudest and most unproductive voice in the room. Even in silence, raising a fist and taking a knee in protest is evidently more intolerable than the lethal actions of law enforcement in Louisville.
COVID-19’s high infection and death rates have brought about a new way of life not seen in a century. The United States is finally beginning to reckon with racism and injustice while the pandemic is deepening and exacerbating the disparities among developing communities of color around the country.
In 2021 America, silence is no longer acceptable. We must consciously and proactively listen to Black voices and women, target the root of deep community disparities, and support those who are not just essential workers, but essential lives to our beautiful, diverse nation.
Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others not only serve as lodestars to speak up for equal justice for all. They remind us of our long American history rooted in discrimination, racial injustice, and white supremacy, which must be acknowledged, addressed, and remedied. As we carry the sacrifices of those who existed before us, we are responsible for making this world a more equitable, compassionate place for the generations that come after us.
Contact: Natasha Mundkur, [email protected], (202) 480-4506