Comment | The grotesque state of US justice

Comment | The grotesque state of US justice

On November 2, 2013 at 1:30AM, Renisha McBride, a 19 year old black woman, was involved in a car accident in Detroit. Confused, disorientated and bleeding from the head, she was found by locals, one of which describing how she kept repeating the phrase: “I want to go home”. As the homeowner went inside to dial 911 for help, he came back to find Renisha had disappeared and got in his car to look for her. This is speculation but it is assumed that Renisha wandered around the predominantly white neighbourhood knocking on people’s doors asking for help for an hour. When she knocked on the door of one unnamed 54 year old resident she was greeted with a shotgun blast to face killing her. The police have as yet not charged the resident for killing Renisha McBride, the resident has said that his gun went off accidently; the resident’s attorney has said that as the resident was in fear of his life this was justified under Michigan law that says you have no duty to retreat otherwise known as stand your ground. This law was made famous by the killing of Trayvon Martin last year.

In the racially charged US, there are many that feel black people are always looked upon with suspicion and that stand your ground has become an acceptable way to shoot black people for no other reason than being there. The American Legislative Exchange Council has investigated laws backed by the National Rifle Association and found them to be applied arbitrarily and discriminatory against black people.  60 per cent of the US prison population is black, yet black people only make up 30 per cent of the population as a whole. On average black people receive a sentence that is 10 per cent longer, and are 20 per cent more likely to go to prison than white people who are convicted for the same crime. Even young people cannot escape from this: a young black male is 18.4 times more likely to go to an adult prison then a young white male convicted of the same crime. The Bureau of Justice statistics estimates that one in three black males can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.

While US authorities have a lot to answer for I feel that society must take some of the blame. As a large black male myself I feel like I am constantly under suspicion wherever I go, and not just from the police. When I walk along the road at night, women cross the road when they see me coming; people clutch their possessions and treat me like a criminal before I have done anything wrong. To be treated as if I do not have a place in society and that everything I do is a potential criminal act for no other reason than my skin colour is harmful to my sense of self worth. It is no wonder that there is currently a crisis of self loathing among black males in western societies. If you treat someone like a criminal from the minute they’re born, then it will be no surprise if that is eventually what they become.

Dami Benbow

Photo: Reuters

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