Who will defend Black women?

Counting the Cost

Julianne Malveaux | 11/21/2013, midnight

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 McBride’s death is a homicide and her family is waiting to see if the 54-year-old homeowner will be charged. News outlets have not named Renisha’s killer for his “protection.” Is there no protection for Renisha?

There are chilling parallels to the Trayvon Martin case in this situation. 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 was drunk as Cootie Brown (a name used in metaphors and similes for drunkenness, mostly in the Southern United States) 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 (if he could tell) that 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 people 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 as well. And it is important to ask what we plan to do about it.

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 Florida 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 Alexander, who stood her ground against an abusive husband and hurt no one.