Breonna Taylor: Transforming a Hashtag into Defunding the Police

Jordan Martin | November 25, 2021

How can modern policing be reformed to address police violence against Black women when it can occur at no fault of their own and end with a shower of bullets in the middle of the night while within the sanctity of their own home? What is accomplished when her name is said but justice is never achieved? What good does it do when her story is subsequently overshadowed or overlooked by the reform movements that intend to correct racism and sexism respectively? This Comment analyzes both Black women’s vulnerability to police violence and their invisibility in reform movements. First, police violence against Black women is a common result of systemic racialized, gendered biases, misinformed by monolithic stereotypes and justified through the absence of institutional discipline and general social disapproval. The predominant underlying rationale often being that Black women are worthless, false victims who either perpetrated the violence or are somehow deserving of it. Second, while Black women are subject to both racism and sexism, their experiences are not given the same or similar platform in comparison to Black men in the antiracist movement or white women in the antisexist movement. Rather, Black women’s needs are perceived as subordinate and inconsequential. Breonna Taylor’s killing is a beacon that illuminates the dangers posed to Black women, both in their own homes, where they should be safe, and in their own movements, where they should be heard. Her story is a signal that places a needed emphasis on overcoming the destruction in silence and empowerment in reclaiming the narrative. In determining an alternative solution to this historical, societal quandary, this Comment cautions that mere localized reform and implemented officer trainings are insufficient to overhaul an institutionalized system of racialized, gendered violence. This Comment builds upon intersectionality theory in its aim to conceptualize what defunding the police should look like in order to adequately address the unique needs of Black women. That is, that the “defund” movement must prioritize and center Black women. To be successful in this endeavor, Black women must receive adequate funding for community-based service organizations, recognized leadership positions of power beyond mere representation, and have the advantage of culturally competent mental and emotional support.