AuthorMartin, Jordan

INTRODUCTION 996 I. BACKGROUND: CENTERING BLACK WOMEN IN THE POLICE NARRATIVE 1000 A. Vulnerability of Black Women 1003 B. Invisibility of Black Women in Reform Movements 1007 II. OVERVIEW: DEFUNDING THE POLICE 1013 III. ANALYSIS: CENTERING BLACK WOMEN IN THE "DEFUND" MOVEMENT 1020 A. Community-Based Service Organizations 1021 B. Black Women Leadership 1024 C. Culturally Competent Mental Health Services 1026 CONCLUSION 1029 To Breonna Taylor, and all other Black women unnamed and unheard, your life mattered.


Breonna Taylor was killed in her own home in the middle of the night, yet no charges were filed for her death. (1) In order to convey the depth of egregiousness that occurred that night, a summary is warranted.

Without announcing their entry, officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove used a battering ram to enter Taylor's apartment shortly after midnight. (2) Taylor's boyfriend fired a single shot in response to the unexpected intrusion, (3) to which the officers then proceeded to fire thirty-two shots into the apartment, six of which hit Taylor. (4) The police account is widely disputed because there was no body camera footage despite department policy. (5) Further, the incident report contained multiple errors, such as listing Taylor's injuries as "none" and indicating that no force was used to enter the apartment. (6) Months later, officer Hankinson was the only officer to be terminated, charged, and indicted; (7) however, it cannot be overlooked that this was only due to his wanton endangerment of Taylor's neighbors, (8) not Taylor's death. (9) Justice for Breonna Taylor has still not been realized, nor has there been any modicum of accountability among the individual officers who killed her or the police department that allowed for her death. (10)

In addition to a twelve-million-dollar settlement for wrongful death, the City of Louisville agreed to institute police reforms to ensure more transparency and accountability as well as demonstrate an attempt to prevent future deaths by officers." The predominant issue, however, is that although these reforms have potential to change local policing practices, they are limited geographically and lack an enforcement mechanism to address the systemic nature of the problem. Moreover, Taylor's death is just one example of why modern policing policies and practices, in addition to the collective police narrative, must transform to address the needs of Black women. Like too many other tragic killings of Black women by police officers that are quickly forgotten, Taylor's death is indicative of who the nation considers expendable. Further, Taylor is unique in her own right as her name was spoken and highlighted in the aftermath of George Floyd's death, (12) unlike many other Black women. Yet that still was not enough to receive justice. While the broader social, political, and economic circumstances involved are beyond the scope of this Comment, Taylor's case can be analyzed and expanded to larger issues like racialized, gendered violence and the culture implicated in defunding the police. Her case is especially provoking in that it should force a reevaluation of American history and a reimagining of policing--including who gets to lead the discussions about reforming the police and how to avoid the costs of prohibiting Black women from participating in that reformation. Reclaiming Taylor's story can become a symbol of change to reshape the collective narrative surrounding Black women's lives and experiences. (13)

This Comment implements intersectional feminism (14) in the Taylor case context to discuss how racial and gender prejudice have coalesced into a new construction of discrimination against Black women in both the modern criminal system and reform movements. Part I of this Comment explores Black women's vulnerability to racialized, gendered police violence as well as the invisibility of Black women's experiences and leadership in reform movements. It then discusses how centering Black women in the police narrative can counteract these unique and complex forms of discrimination. Part II provides insight into how the "defund" movement should be understood conceptually and what that means specifically for Black women. (15) Finally, Part III of this Comment analyzes the centering of Black women in the "defund" movement through an intersectional lens. It argues that both Black women leadership and culturally competent mental health services are necessary to successfully enable and support Black women. It further explains how community-based service organizations can be tailored to the complex needs of Black women.

It should be noted that this Comment focuses on Black women for Black women. It is NOT the intent of this Comment to diminish or displace the systemic inequities which presently plague the lives of Black men, white women, or men and women of color generally. Additionally, there is insufficient space in this Comment to address each nuance of the vast discriminatory legal, social, political, and economic contexts that color all aspects of Black women's experiences. While modest and imperfect, this Comment is offered in the hope that it may meaningfully move the discussion forward in this time of great introspection about racism and modern policing. Thus, this Comment functions to explore the unique and complex ways that the "defund" movement must transform in order to meet the needs of Black women.


    The biggest failures of the criminal justice system thus far seem to be deeply connected to the lack of accountability or enforcement against police officers who kill. (16) The slow progression of Taylor's case, especially in contrast to Floyd's death where officers were quickly fired from employment and criminally charged, (17) is just one example highlighting the conspicuous nature of distinct, normalized violence against Black women in the criminal justice system. Additionally, after the murder of Floyd, global multiracial protests emerged with outrage and calls for police accountability, reform, and defunding of departments. (18) However, the minimal calls for justice following the murder of Taylor have not garnered the same response. (19) Indeed, had it not been for the heightened visibility of police violence against Black lives in 2020, Taylor's death would have likely wordlessly dropped out of the discourse like so many others before her. (20)

    Because of the prioritization of Black men within the Black Lives Matter movement, Black women are again rendered invisible in the very reform movement originated to empower Black people. This disconnect fuels Black women's invisibility because they are not only silenced by police brutality, but also further sidelined within their own reform movements, regardless of subject matter. For example, it would seem that the lives of Black men, and similarly, white women within the Me Too movement, matter more than the lives of Black women. Black women who suffer at the hands of the police, however, pay with their lives. When the deaths of Black women are continually overshadowed by the deaths of Black men and white women, there can only be a tradeoff of either systemic racism or sexism, never both, even when both affect the lives of Black women. The Say Her Name campaign (21) rightfully aims to call attention to and break the silence surrounding the unique injustices that Black women face as a consequence of police brutality. (22) But the Taylor case exemplifies how only "saying her name" can no longer be sufficient, and why wider legal reforms, although elusive like defunding the police, are inevitable if there is to ever be real change. Failure to answer these systemic issues would be a mistake and will only hinder the advancement of Black women.

    In determining the most efficient and effective reforms to change the way we think about criminal law and criminology in particular, policy rationales and proposed legislation reforms must address the ongoing silence of Black women. Indeed, Black women are the most marginalized group in the modern system. (23) They are collectively ignored, largely overlooked, and ultimately left behind, even in the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements originally intended to combat racism and sexism respectively. (24 )When deliberating whether a series of reforms constitutes an actual commitment to fairness and a good faith effort to build trust and legitimacy with Black women, the guiding principle should reflect an outcome similar to distributive social justice theory (25) that prioritizes a distribution of resources and opportunities suitable to that of disinterested persons. Moving forward, the rationalizations and justifications for the victimization of Black women deserve fundamental changes. These changes range from enforcement and accountability following police violence on an individualized local level, to a nationwide reform of police policies and practices, and further to an inclusive prioritization of Black women's leadership in social justice reform movements that counteract police violence.


      Black women are consistently the most vulnerable social group due to their intersectional identities of gender, race, class, and sexuality. First, this Comment will address what types of racialized, gendered violence the police continually perpetrate against Black women. This requires noting an underlying basic premise--there is an underrepresentation of officer-related deaths of Black women due to underreporting out of fear of retaliation and lack of an official data collection or national registry, and thus an incomplete account of less reliable data generally. (26) The violence, however, tracks a pattern of systemic, state-sanctioned oppression when observing various injustices together, rather than unconnected occurrences of violence stemming from...

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