Who will defend Black women?
All Renisha McBride wanted to do was to go home. She had been in a car accident, her cell phone was dead and she needed help. She knocked on a couple of doors in the suburban Detroit neighborhood where she was stranded, but it was well after midnight and people weren’t opening their doors. Finally, she found a homeowner who opened his door, but instead of offering the help she so desperately needed, he shot her, saying he thought she was going to break into his home.
He didn’t shoot her at close range; he shot her from a distance. He might have simply shut the door, or he might have shut the door and called 911. Instead he shot 19-year-old McBride in the face.
Law enforcement officials have said that Renisha’s death is a homicide and her family is waiting to see if the 54-year-old homeowner will be charged.
Blame the victim
There are chilling parallels to the Trayvon Martin case. All we know about the murderer is that he is a homeowner. But already the character assassination of Renisha has begun. Her blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit. She may have had marijuana in her system. She may have, but that’s not definitive. So why has that information been leaked when no one has leaked a murderer’s name.
If Renisha were drunk as Cootie Brown and high as a kite, she did not deserve to be killed. Why didn’t the “54-year-old homeowner” call 911 and tell them there was a drunken woman on his porch? Why did he shoot?
Renisha McBride’s murder bears attention for several reasons. First of all it reinforces the unfortunate reality that young Black people are at high risk for violence, often because too many shoot first and ask questions later. Secondly, in the cases that are highly publicized, usually it is the massacre of a young man that is at the center of a case. It is important to note that young Black women are too often at risk. And it is important to ask what we plan to do about it.
The case of Marissa Alexander
Marissa Alexander didn’t want to take another beating. Her husband Rico Gray is an admitted abuser whose brutal beatings of his wife were described as “life threatening”. She fired a warning shot into the ceiling to warn off her abuser husband. She was charged with felony use of a firearm and sentenced to 20 years in jail.
The prosecutor in this case, Angela Corey, is the same one who only reluctantly charged George Zimmerman in the massacre of Trayvon Martin, the same prosecutor who assembled a flawed legal team, the same prosecutor who believes in the Stand Your Ground laws. That is, except for Marissa, who stood her ground against an abusive husband and hurt no one.
With domestic violence an epidemic in our country, it seems unfathomable that a woman who wanted to prevent it is charged with a crime. While the civil rights community has surrounded Marissa, I am not aware of women’s organizations or domestic violence organizations that have been similarly supportive. E. Faye Williams of the National Congress of Black Women says that her organization has been active in assisting Marissa, and that’s a good thing.
Black women vulnerable
Marissa Alexander’s incarceration and the murder of Renisha McBride have something in common. They illustrate the vulnerability of Black women, both in the legal system, and in the public perception of race and gender. Black women are not afforded the privilege of standing their ground against batterers. Black women can be shot at far range because a 54-year-old homeowner was so frightened that he had to shoot.
Dr. Julianne Malveaux is a D.C.-based economist and writer, and president emerita of Bennett College for Women.
Who will defend Black women? | Florida Courier.
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