Renisha McBride, a 19 year old woman, becomes the latest African American victim who was shot and killed after being mistaken for someone “up to no good”. McBride’s misfortune occurred while she was attempting to seek assistance following a car accident in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. According to reports, after her cell phone battery died, McBride stepped on the porch of a house in Dearborn, allegedly seeking help somewhere around 2:30 AM on November 2. Instead of receiving the help she needed, she ended up being shot in the head and died. Unlike Detroit, Michigan, its suburban neighbor Dearborn Heights is majority white. The person shooting and killing her has not been charged.
McBride’s case is not occurring in isolation. In September, 2013, 24 year old Jonathan Ferrell, a Florida A and M college graduate was shot 10 to 12 times by the police in Charlotte, North Carolina after he knocked on the door of a stranger seeking assistance in the early morning hours following an accident. As he ran towards police seeking help, he was shot and killed. And we all know too well that Trayvon Martin was shot and killed after buying candy and iced tea after being mistaken for someone “up to no good” by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. And like George Zimmerman, the person who shot Renisha McBride was arrested and then released.
African Americans are more prone to being suspected of criminal activity by whites when doing nothing wrong or merely seeking assistance. But more alarming is what appears to be the recent trend towards taking innocent black lives by those who take justice in their own hands along with their racial bias and often supported by the law with Stand Your Ground laws. Suspecting blacks of criminal activity where none exists is nothing new and has been going on for decades. In New York, it’s sanctioned under Stop and Frisk Laws; in Maryland and other places, it’s called driving while black, where a disproportionate number of blacks are stopped for suspected illegal activity while driving. And now in Stand Your Ground states, it’s called shoot blacks first and ask questions later, resulting in acquittals or no charges being filed. Michigan where McBride was shot has a version of the Stand Your Ground law of shoot first if one believes they are in imminent fear of bodily harm or death.
McBride’s case hits home with an African American woman being shot and killed for seeking help in a white neighborhood after dark. And her case like similar ones begs the question of why do people feel they can take the life of another person instead of waiting for the police to handle the situation. Of course, in Ferrell’s case, a police officer was the one who shot and killed Ferrell after the neighbor’s alarm contacted the police. That officer has been charged with manslaughter.
I’ve recounted the story of my brother who needed assistance after a health scare issue while driving. As he called me to ask for advice, he saw a police officer and asked me if he should flag down the officer. Instinctively, I said no fearing the police might not see my 6’2″ tall brother of 275 pounds as in need of help but disoriented and thereby suspected of being up to no good. McBride’s story hits home for me. I am aware of the issues facing black men in our society whether stop and frisk, driving while black or being black in a white world. I wanted to believe that if I, as an African American woman was in need of help in the middle of the night, that a kind stranger would help me, regardless of their color or mine. Now I need to add to a growing list of concerns that I might be killed for merely asking for help like McBride.
Unfortunately, at the end of the day for many white persons, blacks are always up to no good. From Stand Your Ground laws where blacks are often the victim to Stop and Frisk laws where blacks are targeted, many of these laws are not protecting African Americans in their community but targeting them. As of the writing of this article, the person who shot McBride had not been arrested. McBride’s family is seeking justice and calling for action.
On Twitter and in other social media outlets, many persons are calling for action in the case of Renisha McBride. And regardless of one’s race or color, there should be wide spread support for an investigation into McBride’s case. Justice should be color blind.
Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, former prosecutor, speaker and writer on race, gender and class in the law. She appears frequently in the media, including BET News, C-Span, Huffington Post, RT America and CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates.