Renisha McBride’s killing and equal opportunity racial hatred

November 13, 2013

(Kimberly P. Mitchell/Detroit Free Press via AP)

Nearly two weeks ago,  Renisha McBride crashed her car in a leafy suburb of Detroit. While details are murky about what happened in the immediate aftermath, one thing is clear: An hour later, McBride was dead, shot in the head on the front porch of a nearby house belonging to a white male.

McBride’s family has said they believe she was going from house to house looking for help after her car broke down and her cellphone died.

Charges have not been filed in the case. The shooter’s name has not been released. But not surprisingly, McBride’s killing has evoked outrage and demands for justice. The Los Angeles Times reports that high-profile civil rights leaders and protesters have been “likening the incident to the February 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin.”

Although local police are investigating, it appears that  McBride’s killing, like many others, highlights continued racial biases and fears held about African Americans. Despite all of our efforts to call these biases out and deem them unacceptable, black men — and women — are paying the price for  fear with their lives. The pleas and protests we heard following Trayvon’s death and George Zimmerman’s acquittal have fallen on deaf ears.

Indeed, Trayvon’s tragic killing renewed centuries-old racial tensions. The nation found itself immersed in a race debate that included remarks from President Obama on racial profiling and biases in the criminal justice system.

But what has changed?

Just two months ago, 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell was killed by police after seeking help in the aftermath of a car crash. Last month, Jack Lamar Roberson was fatally shot by police after his fiancee called for help in response to a bad diabetic episode.

In an article in the Daily Beast, Jamelle Bouie wrote: “Ferrell joins a long, tragic list. This March, for instance, Kimani Gray was shot to death by officers in Brooklyn, New York, after he was confronted for ‘suspicious behavior.’ A year before, in New Orleans, Wendell Allen, 20, was killed in his home by police executing a search warrant for marijuana. And Kendrec McDade, 19, was killed while running from police in Pasadena, California, after he was falsely accused of attempted theft.”

Despite the fact that a black man has held the highest political seat in the world for five years, countless African Americans continue to be unjustly profiled daily. Whether it’s unwarranted stop-and-frisk incidents or deadly “mistaken identity” tragedies,  the price for racial bias and fear is paid seemingly everyday. And it goes beyond police brutality, reaching the porches of American homes.

So again I ask, what has changed?

How many protests and candlelight vigils does it take? How many hashtags calling for justice with Afro-centric names attached to them do we need? How many more “no justice; no peace” chants do we have to recite? Have we not been outraged more times than we can count?

It is exhausting to have to constantly validate the humanity of black and brown people. We do it knowing that it is our human duty — not only to McBride, but to ourselves. Because if she can be killed so viciously without charges even being filed, we know the same can happen to us.

Amidst all these conversations about the fears held about black men, a black woman was shot in the face as she seemingly sought help. A woman. This might be a rude awakening for women who fight tirelessly to preserve the lives and freedoms of black men. While we will wait to watch how this case unfolds, McBride’s killing reminds us that we too must be vigilant. We too may be killed for walking while black.

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Mark Berman · November 13, 2013