“Listen to Black women.”
That’s a message delivered again and again in a letter sent to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer Tuesday, and signed by thousands of white women.
“Mayor Fischer, we are calling on you to listen to Black women… Listen to Black women like Breonna’s mother. Listen to the Black women who are leading on the streets, putting their own lives at risk crying out for justice. Listen to Black women who work every day to make this a better community, who tend to all the ways that the legacy of racism, in this community and communities across this country, have left people behind,” the letter reads.
The project was organized by Louisville women including including Emily Bingham, Susan Hershberg, Heather Kleisner, Pam McMichael, Eleanor Bingham Miller and Carla F Wallace.
“Our mayor, who also chairs the U.S. Conference of Mayors, needs to demonstrate that he is committed to change making,” said Wallace in a press release. “Listening to Black women, to those most impacted in what many are calling the ground zero of racial justice, is an important place to start.”
The letter has more than 2,700 signatures of white women from Louisville and around the country, demanding that the mayor not only listen to Black women, but also fire the Louisville Metro Police officers who were at Breonna Taylor’s apartment the night she died.
Officers shot and killed 26-year-old Taylor on March 13 while executing a signed warrant with a provision that allowed them to enter without knocking. They did knock, but it’s disputed whether they identified themselves as police. When they entered the apartment, Taylor’s boyfriend fired a gun, hitting one officer. Police responded with gunfire, killing Taylor.
People have been protesting in Louisville for more than 100 days, demanding justice for Taylor and changes for the city’s and state’s policing policies. The state attorney general and FBI are investigating the case
The letter says that, historically, “the safety of white women… has been used to justify calls for law and order. All women are being denied justice in areas of our health, control over our own bodies, pay equity, and more. But Black women along with all Black Americans inhabit a society where injustice based on skin color permeates every single facet of life.”
It goes on to say that white silence “allows race-based inequity and violence to continue with devastating consequences.”
The co-signers of the letter stress that Louisville can’t heal or “move forward with moral integrity” without the officers losing their jobs.
“There is no leaping over Breonna Taylor’s body to the broader changes you and we know are necessary. These are tied together and cannot be pried apart.”
One of the officers involved in Taylor’s shooting, Brett Hankison, has already been fired. LMPD announced his termination in June. Documents stated that he created a “substantial danger of death and serious injury” by firing blindly into Taylor’s home. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is investigating the incident, as is the FBI.
The mayor’s communications director, Jean Porter, confirmed that Fischer had received the emailed letter and “appreciates the concern expressed in it.”
“He understands that people are frustrated with the time it’s taking to get a decision; he shares that frustration,” Porter wrote in a statement. “But it’s important that we wait for the attorney general’s announcement before deciding next steps. The Mayor is not waiting, however, to act on changes to address the challenges facing us – including, as the letter says, ‘all the ways that the legacy of racism, in this community and communities across the country, have left people behind.’”
Porter pointed to the mayor signing a new ordinance in June, banning no-knock warrants and expanding police body camera usage in Metro Louisville, as well as the mayor’s executive order, signed on Wednesday, that creates the Equity in Contracting and Procurement Task Force “charged with working to close the wealthy gap.”
The letter is circulating on social media, and organizations like Louisville’s Showing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ, is asking for more people to sign the letter.
This story has been updated to include comment from the mayor’s office.