America’s indifference toward the Black body

The aftermath of Breonna Taylor’s murder exemplifies law enforcement’s lack of accountability

Toyloy Brown III, Opinion Editor

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are,” said Benjamin Franklin, one of United States’ Founding Fathers.

Photo from Flickr

Of the three officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s murder, a grand jury indicted former Detective Brett Hankison on charges of wanton endangerment on Wednesday, Sept. 23. According to Kentucky law, a “person is guilty of wanton endangerment in the first degree when, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, he wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person.”

Although these three officers are solely responsible for the loss of an innocent Black life after raiding the wrong home, none were charged in relation to the murder. However, based on the decision of the grand jury and the laws of Kentucky, Hankison’s “indifference to the value of human life” shown in his irresponsible shooting of a neighboring apartment when executing a drug raid was deemed more egregious to the letter of the law than him and his partners’ role in killing a Black woman who was sleeping in her apartment.

Quite literally, the bullets that missed Taylor and her boyfriend to shatter the glass door of a different apartment — but caused no harm to those who inhabit it — was a display more indicative of the disregard for someone’s life than the unnecessary and devastating death of Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency medical technician. This is yet another instance that exposes the immoral laws that consistently protect the perpetrators who breach the safety of Black people. Taylor’s murder also epitomizes the expendability and abuse of Black bodies as well as the justice that remains nonexistent for Black people in the United States.

Laws that make it exceedingly challenging to discipline officers who make mistakes that cost people’s lives should be seen for what they are: unjust laws. The police should not be one of the only classes of people immune to accepting the consequences of its wrongdoings — especially in a nation that notoriously boasts the highest incarceration rate of any country, as of July 2020. Authority figures in all other respects are held to higher standards. It is, at best, strange why there is an exception when it comes to law enforcement.

It is impossible for true justice to be served when a life is taken. A $12 million settlement and a promise from the city of Louisville to implement changes like mandates for police commanders to approve all search warrants are not impactful changes nor does it near making things right. The starting point for anything that tries to approach justice when a life is lost is to substantially hold the wrongdoers accountable for their extreme levels of negligence. That is the bare minimum and is a more effective method to truly dissuade others in similar positions from making deadly erroneous decisions. A penal system that is incapable of holding its authority figures culpable for these grave errors is a reprehensible system.

Taylor’s murder is an atrocity. The country she is native to is incapable of offering anything that can truly prevent another tragedy like hers from happening to someone else in the future. This reality is inexcusable, no matter how you look at it.

This event pains Black Americans more because we know it could happen to any one of us. It is appalling that the humanity of Black people has been uncompromisingly infringed upon to such a degree that the decision not to charge anyone for Taylor’s murder was anticipated by most. It is astounding that America’s criminal justice system which is meant to uphold the rights of all its people and inspire confidence in equal treatment under the law tend to have the opposite effect for Black people.

When you’re Black, justice for some might as well be justice for none if you’re not included. America’s clear apathy for our dignity reveals the truth on how it perceives Black bodies. Disposable. Hopefully those unaffected become as “outraged” as those who are and change that perception as well as the laws to make fairness a reality in this country.