Two weeks after the killing of Renisha McBride her killer, Theodore Wafer, was finally arrested and charged with second degree murder and manslaughter. This tragic killing happened less than two months after Jonathan Ferrel, a 24 year old African-American male, was killed by police in Charlotte, North Carolina, after crashing his car into an embankment and knocking on a door of a nearby home, whose owner called 911 to report a robbery in progress (because a robber would knock on your door to alert you that they were coming in…).
When did we get to a place where the sight of a young black male or female immediately musters a need to shoot in the name of ‘self-defense’? Or have we always been in this place but got lost in the ‘post-racial’ America jargon that has permeated the air since the election of Barack Obama?
You see African-Americans have always been seen as threatening, violent, strong, and not the type to need help. Renisha and Jonathon join a long list of African-Americans whose lives were taken away too soon and for just being black in America. During the Trayvon Martin case, those who defended George Zimmerman pointed to statistics that showed African-Americans committed a disproportionate share of violent crimes. They painted Trayvon as a wild teenager who smoked marijuana and due to this link to marijuana he couldn’t have been in need of help. The same is being done with Renisha. The toxicology report shows that she, like many other young adults whether they are black, white, yellow, or brown, was driving under the influence of alcohol and had traces of marijuana in her system. Thus leaving open room for speculation of her potentially being belligerent, violent, or making a 54 year old man with a shot gun feel threatened even though he was standing behind a closed screen door when he shot her.
It is understandable to be alarmed by an unexpected knock on your door in the middle of the night. However, the bigger question becomes the ‘what happened next’: is it possible to look through a screen door wielding your shot gun and think a 19 year old inebriated young black female with no weapon is suspicious? This is what the jury will have to decide. Did Theodore Wafer act in self-defense?
A self-defense law enacted in 2006 in Michigan states that a homeowner has the right to use force during a break-in. Otherwise, a person must show that his or her life was in danger. The defense team will have to argue that Wafer feared for his life when McBride came to his door in the middle of the night hours after crashing her car blocks away. They will have to prove that while Wafer was standing behind the locked screen door he feared for his life. There are still a lot of unanswered questions in this case, but the outcome of this case may come down to one word: ‘reasonable’. What would a reasonable person do in these circumstances?
We will definitely keep you updated as the story continues to unfold.