To Save or Not to Save: The Lives of Black and Brown Virginians

Reducing Systemic Racism Through New Laws

The pandemic initially caused a reduction of drivers on the road. Around that time, the United States saw an increase in awareness for the unfair and potentially discriminatory actions from certain types of stops by law enforcement. What I’m talking about is the motive for why in 2020 police were no longer able to stop drivers due to defective equipment, loud exhausts, tinted windows, and expired vehicle registration and safety inspection stickers that were less than 3 months overdue. Research showed that people of lower economic status were more susceptible to getting pulled over for these reasons and, most often, they happened to be people of color. To counter this, officers were unable to stop someone who fit the bill. That law passed because of a Democratic controlled delegation in Richmond. Those infractions are still illegal; it’s just that now, officers cannot pull someone over for any of those reasons. They now need a different primary reason, such as speeding or other moving violations, to stop drivers. The intent behind this law is “specifically intended to narrow racial disparities in traffic stops and to save the lives of Black and brown Virginians.” per Arlington’s Chief Public Defender, Bradley Haywood.

The tables have turned and now Richmond is controlled by Republicans. It appears that they are trying to undo the work by the Democrats and their reformation movement for equal justice. The reasoning for undoing the 2020 law is because anything that would be found from a search when pulled over for a non-moving violation would be excluded from prosecution. The example used to iterate this reasoning is if an officer found guns, drugs, or even a dead body in the trunk, then the occupant of the vehicle couldn’t be charged with it. Or if a person kidnapped a child and was driving a car without a working tail light, then the car could not be stopped and thus, a kidnapping wouldn’t be able to be stopped. Of course these are extreme examples, but many would argue that they are more than valid reasons for undoing the current law. A lesser but still serious example would be, if the tail lights weren’t working, then another driver could rear end that vehicle because they didn’t see the brake lights activated.

Whether you agree with the 2020 law or its undoing, the only way you’ll get your voice heard is if you contact your delegate or senator and speak up. They work for you so they should know what you want. The other option would be to vote for another candidate who shares your views or run for office yourself. It seems almost anyone can get into public office these days.