African-American Men and the Benefit Of The Doubt


“But the color of a Negro’s skin makes him easily recognizable, makes him suspect, converts him into a defenseless target” ― Richard Wright, Black Boy

The benefit of the doubt is all we want! To be able to walk into a store and not be followed, to be able to walk down the street and not be labeled suspicious, to be able to seek help and not be thought of as a burglar and gunned down by the police, the benefit of the doubt is all we want!

Last week, Jonathan Ferrell was gunned down by police after he crashed his car in a rural area near Charlotte, North Carolina. After the accident, he dragged himself from the wreckage to a doorstep where he sought help from the woman who lived there, Sarah McCartney. When McCartney heard the banging at the front, she opened it, expecting her husband. Instead, she saw Ferrell, an African-American, and slammed the door. She then called 911 to report what she believed was an attempted robbery (David Moye). On the 911 tape McCartney can be heard yelling “oh my God” repeatedly, “He’s in the front yard yelling”, “I need help”, she said crying. Once police arrived she is heard saying, “oh, please let them get him.” The police “got him” by shooting him 10 times!

Now, I definitely am not blaming McCartney for the shooting, I would probably be just as alarmed if someone was knocking at my door at 2:30 A.M. But what burglar knocks on the front door asking for help? Ferrell, who had just survived a serious car accident was most likely dazed and confused, and was seeking assistance, but if you listen to the 911 tape he isn’t given the benefit of the doubt and he is labeled as a criminal, and the police responded treating him as such, but Ferrell was no criminal.

Jonathan Ferrell had moved from Florida to North Carolina a year ago to be with his fiancé’, his high school sweetheart. Ferrell, who played football at Florida A&M University was working various retail jobs and planning on going back to school to help support the plans he and his fiancé were planning for their future.

“This is an honest, every day, hardworking American with ambition and dreams who had them snuffed out,” Chestnut, the family’s lawyer, said during a press conference on Monday. “He’s engaged to be married, he has a dog and a cat, he was driving a Toyota Camry, he survived an accident, had 3.7 GPA, a chemistry major. This is not someone who posed a threat to the officers or anyone else, this is an everyday American.”

After initially reporting that officers acted properly, the Charlotte Police Department has since charged Officer Randall Kerrick, 27, with voluntary manslaughter, and he is currently free on $50,000 bail.

Ferrell’s murder comes just months after a Florida jury found overzealous neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenager. Martin was walking from a 7-11 with skittles and an ice tea when he was confronted and killed, like Martin, Ferrell was not granted the benefit of the doubt.

Now, like in the Trayvon Martin case, reports are surfacing that according to “witnesses” Ferrell was drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana hours before the crash as if that is a justifiable reason for his death. Because of negative stereotypes, African American men who smoke marijuana and drink just as much as their Caucasian counterparts, are arrested and incarcerated at twice the rate and labeled as troublemakers, thugs, and gangsters. What African-American men want from America is simple; it is the same thing everyone wants, equality, to be granted the benefit of the doubt.




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