Breonna Taylor died six months ago after being shot by Louisville police officers. On Tuesday, the city of Louisville, Kentucky announced a $12 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said today during a press conference that Taylor’s family will not only receive $12 million but that he is implementing police reforms so this does not happen again. The reforms include judicial approval from commanding officers before search warrants are executed.
Local Louisville tax dollars from the city will be used to make the payment to Taylor’s family — meaning that residents are quite literally paying for the police department’s mistakes. And, in the words of activist and National Chair for the Women’s March Tamika Mallory, a settlement “is a restitution but it is not arresting the cops”.
How much does a Black body cost? Is $12 million enough to cover the worth of a Black life? When Black daughters, sons, mothers, and fathers are being killed at the hands of police — the very people who were supposed to protect and serve communities across this country — do we find out exactly what we’re really worth?
During the times of slavery, at the shameful start of this country, Black human beings were placed on an auction block and sold like property. Their value was debated among white slave-owners and people who stood to make money from a gross violation of human rights. Today, Black women and men are killed and their families are handed a monetary value decided upon by the courts, paid partially by the Black people who live in the cities where they were killed. Make no mistake: this is the dark legacy of that time.
Breonna Taylor was sleeping in her apartment and was shot when police entered her home during a “no-knock” warrant. Ahmaud Arbery was going for his daily jog. Tamir Rice was at the park, playing around. Aiyana Stanley-Jones was sleeping in her living room. Trayvon Martin was walking home from a snack run.
Their loved ones have been handed a life sentence of grief. No amount of money can replace them. No carefully decided-upon number of dollars will make it all okay. When the police who pulled the trigger walk free, this money makes a mockery of the grief of every Black person in the country.
And society is not grieving hard enough for Breonna. We’re not grieving hard enough for Black lives. The payout feels like white America’s rationale; it makes the killing of Black people normal, transactional, Black bodies just another commodity. But this is not normal by any means.
Many said that after the Black Lives Matter protests swept the country, things would change. But this settlement proved once and for all that money talks in America, and Black lives will always come second. We knew it when we were threatened with guns by white supremacists during protests; we knew it when Donald Trump Jr said Kyle Rittenhouse was just a kid who’d done a stupid thing. And now, today, as we struggle to find justice for Breonna Taylor — an innocent woman, who had dedicated her professional life to helping people — nobody can deny it.
The simple fact is that we all deserved more.