“We can’t rest until all our children can go to school or walk down the street free from the fear they’ll be struck down by a bullet”. – Barack Obama
The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership than any other country in the world. There are roughly 310 million guns in America and nearly 40% of U.S. households have guns. When you couple the rate of gun ownership with the stereotypical view some Americans have towards African Americans then it is no wonder that African Americans are murdered at higher rates than all other ethnic groups.
This brings me to the death of Renisha McBride, McBride, a nineteen-year-old African-American woman, was involved in a car accident in a Detroit suburb at around 1 A.M. In the hazy series of events that followed, McBride, who was intoxicated, knocked at the door of Theodore Wafer, a white homeowner who fired a shotgun through his screen door and killed her. It had been less than two months since Jonathan Ferrell, a twenty-four-year-old African-American, was killed by police in Charlotte, North Carolina, after crashing his car into an embankment and knocking on the door of a nearby home, whose owner called 911 to report a robbery in progress. When police arrived on the scene they killed Ferrell firing 12 shots and hitting him 10 times (Jelani Cobb).
Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker wrote a beautiful blog on McBride’s death (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/11/the-killing-of-renisha-mcbride.html):
“There is an irony at the heart of these incidents, one that is difficult to notice beneath the din of decibels with which we discuss race, crime, and fear in this country. African-Americans are both the primary victims of violent crime in this country and the primary victims of the fear of that crime. In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s killing, defenders of George Zimmerman pointed defiantly to statistics showing that African-Americans committed a disproportionate share of violent crimes—damning stats, wielded like a collective bad report card, that no black person in this country is ever in danger of forgetting, if only for the sake of his or her own safety. But those numbers are mute on matters of actual human experience; they have nothing to say about the blink of time in which a petite grieving mother registers as a threat, or an inebriated nineteen-year-old motorist intimidates a fifty-four-year-old man who has a shotgun. There is almost a sense that McBride’s death is not news; it’s a case study—a cliché with a casualty (Jelani Cobb).”
These killings make it feel as if there is little to no value placed on the lives of African Americans. One of the most troubling trends when it comes to the shooting deaths of African Americans are the reports of drug and alcohol use in relation to the shootings. It is being reported that McBride was intoxicated at the time of her shooting, reports of alcohol use also surfaced in the death of Ferrell and when Trayvon Martin was killed there were reports of marijuana use. These reports seem to try to justify the shootings by suggesting that if the victims had not been drinking or using drugs they would not have been killed.
The benefit of the doubt is all we (African Americans) 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, the benefit of the doubt is all we want!
Let us hope and pray that Renisha McBride and her family receive the justice they deserve.