It’s time now to clear the air…and do you remember this?
That was a mournful president, in July, following the news that George Zimmerman had been acquitted after shooting Trayvon Martin to death in Florida. And here’s how the dignified, if distraught, parents of that unarmed young man responded to the president’s comments:
“What touches people is that our son, Trayvon Benjamin Martin, could have been their son… This is a beautiful tribute to our boy.”
And so, as the father of two girls, I’d like to introduce you to a young woman who could have been my daughter. This morning, at a Christian congregation in Detroit, 19-year-old Renisha McBride was laid to rest–a promising life cut brutally short in circumstances that have become quintessentially American.
This young woman, barely beyond adolescence, had been involved in a road traffic accident in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, early on Saturday morning. According to members of her family, she had sought help from a nearby house because her cell phone had been drained of power. It was around 3:30 in the morning and she was unarmed.
What happened next is now the subject of an investigation, but according to police sources, Renisha McBride did no damage to the property, nor to the homeowner. But for her troubles, she was shot in the face.
And if that wasn’t senseless enough, the homeowner is alleged to have said that his gun discharged accidentally.
There’s been a perfectly understandable demand for a thorough investigation, with protests on Wednesday night outside of the shooter’s home. And it’s worth saying that, like Florida, Michigan has its own version of a ‘stand your ground’ law, which allows individuals to use deadly force if they feel threatened.
And in the darkness of the night, and with a stranger at the door, its not difficult to imagine how one might feel anxious–but it’s also not difficult to understand why so many people are wondering if Renisha McBride had been subjected to a dehumanizing form of racial profiling that denied her humanity in preference to assuming criminality.
It’s why many have concluded that walking while black or shopping while black or just being a stranger and being black is enough to bring your life to an end.
And so, in a nation that won’t do anything to stem the use of lethal weapons, we are left only with our hands on the trigger of our consciences, and we have to find a way of saying that Renisha McBride is not a stranger. She’s my daughter, she’s your sister–and who would kill one of their own?