It’s early still.
It’s been little more than a week, and the police are still investigating. So right now, it’s still too early to really know why — or how — Renisha McBride ended up dead on a porch in the middle of the night in Dearborn Park, Michigan. Reports differ: she was shot in the back of her head. No, she was shot in the face. Her body was dumped somewhere. No, she was found right there, right where she was shot. The gun went off accidentally. No, it was a “justified shooting” — the homeowner feared for his life.
So many questions, only one answer: a young woman — a girl really — went looking for help and ended up dead.
There are things we know for sure. Renisha McBride was 19. She was black. She was unarmed. Her shooter, who has not been identified because he has not been charged, was white. He was armed with a 12-gauge shotgun. She had the misfortune to crash her car in the wee hours in a predominantly white Detroit suburb. Police say the car accident happened around 1:30am. So, armed only with a dead cell phone, Renisha apparently sought help — and ended up knocking on the wrong door some two hours later.
What was she doing during those two hours? Was she hurt, and wandering around in a daze, as her family’s lawyer attests? Was it a case of “self-defence gone wrong“? Why didn’t the shooter call 911? Why did he open the door?
Why did he shoot?
It’s early still.
But it’s not too early for the country to react on cue, following the same sad script. On the one side, you have protesters bearing signs that read, “We Demand Justice: Renisha McBride“. On the other hand, on the internet, commenters quote Detroit crime statistics, creating an equation where Detroit equals black and scary, and one young woman’s life doesn’t count for much.
Renisha’s shooting triggers memories of other cases — recent cases — of racial profiling run amok. Cases where the victim was black and the shooter wasn’t, where the shooter claimed to be fearing for their life and so, naturally, was justified in pulling the trigger. Cases like Trayvon Martin. Or cases like the shooting of Jonathan Ferrell, 24, a former college football player who in September was gunned down by police in Charlotte, North Carolina. He, too, had just been in a car accident and was running toward police, looking for help. He was unarmed. Officer Randall Kerrick shot him 10 times. Ferrell was African American; Kerrick, who was charged with voluntary manslaughter, is white.
These shootings rip open scabs that have yet to heal, wounds that are centuries in the making, thanks to America’s crazy racial history. Slavery shapes us still. Watch a film like 12 Years a Slave, and you realise that despite how much things have changed, we’re still a nation staggering about, suffering from post-slavery PTSD. Whatever the side we’re standing on, we mistrust. Boy, do we ever mistrust.
When news of Renisha McBride broke, my college friend, Tsan Merritt-Poree Abrahamson, posted a little missive on Facebook:
When I was 9 months pregnant, my car broke down about a mile from my house, at 7pm (dinnertime). I was in a suit. Lots of lights on in lots of homes. NO ONE would let me in or even came to the door (and yes, I could see them looking out their windows). Finally, a woman asked — through the door — what I wanted. She said she wouldn’t let me in but would make a call for me. [My] husband didn’t answer the phone so she said that was all she would do for me. I started walking. A few minutes later, she drove up and said, ‘I’m Middle Eastern and people are always calling me a terrorist. I did the same thing to you and I’m sorry.’
Evidently, I’m lucky I didn’t get shot.
We’re imprisoned by misperceptions and all kinds of tribal animus.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.