Qualified Immunity is Killing the Black Community

It’s been a year, and I still can’t sleep. If you think I’m talking about the pandemic, you’re mistaken. It’s been a year since a girl like me was resting in her bed and never got the chance to meet the dawn of the new day. She never got the chance to call her mom again or kiss her boyfriend again. She never got the chance just to be again. All she did was sleep, and the police killed her. They killed a beautiful, innocent Black girl who was just like me. They broke down her door, took her life, and haven’t faced any consequences. I haven’t been the same since. I haven’t had a restful sleep since. Her name was Breonna Taylor.

In the aftermath of Breonna’s murder, I sat on my couch and tried not to think about it. I’d turn on the television and try to live vicariously through the characters and storylines, all the while avoiding eye contact with my door. Will I be next? Should I get a dog? An alarm? Should I work from my hometown so at least my parents will be under the same roof? Deep down, I knew none of this would stop the police from coming through my door any time they wanted. They got away with killing her. If they could do it then, they could probably do it again, right?

I’ll admit, my anxiety was in overdrive over her death. How could this happen? But deep down, I knew exactly how this could happen–Because white society let it. And worse still, white society let the police get away with it. Just like they’ve done countless times before. 

I know what you’re thinking. LaTwyla, don’t be paranoid. You don’t live anywhere near Louisville. We all know location doesn’t make a bit of difference. Police murder innocent Black people everywhere. We all know the names and stories of the lives turned into hashtags, and we all know the reasons the officers get away with it. Racism. Racism and qualified immunity.

What’s qualified immunity, you ask? Oh, it’s just the giant loophole that allows cops to avoid accountability for violating someone’s rights. If a cop, for instance, breaks into your home and kills you “accidentally,”  qualified immunity blocks your family from suing. The cops aren’t busting down the doors of blonde-haired and blue-eyed Trevor’s mansion. Instead, they are killing unarmed people like Breonna Taylor while they sleep. Many states, like Virginia, have qualified immunity doctrines that let police off the hook when they violate or kill someone. 

In the latest round of all talk and no action, the Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly decided to kill a measure to end this racist principle. During the recent legislative session, the measure died just as it did during last year’s special session. Our community is fighting tooth and nail for the right to sleep in our own beds in peace and inaction, bureaucracy, and indecision is what we get from our leaders. It’s revolting. It’s 2021 and we are just now attempting to rectify this injustice by passing reforms to hold police accountable,, only to have justice snatched away AGAIN. Even though “no knock” warrants are outlawed in Virginia now, what is the point if qualified immunity is still the law? Thanks Virginia for once again reminding us exactly who you are and how we got here.  

My anger and frustration aside, enough is enough. These racist cops are killing us now, just as the slave catchers were killing us then. At the very least we can hold them accountable. We can send a message that this is NOT Ok. We can make sure that Black and Brown communities can exist in peace in their own homes. We can AT LEAST do that right? 

It’s been a year and not much has changed. It’s been a year and my anxiety keeps reminding me that at any moment I could be gone just like her. I could vanish and my family couldn’t do a thing about it. I could leave this world and thanks to Virginia’s Republicans, it doesn’t matter. By keeping qualified immunity on the books, lawmakers are telling me that my Black life doesn’t matter. Until we fix this and all the issues with policing in this country, my Black life won’t matter. Until we fix this you’ll find me on my couch again waiting. Waiting until the day they come for me. Waiting for my turn to vanish.