The ignored victims of ‘stand your ground’

It is 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday. You just got in a car accident in a suburban neighborhood. You have a dead phone battery. What do you do? Knock on a resident’s door? Wrong answer, especially if you are a black woman in a predominately white neighborhood. For 19-year-old Detroit resident Renisha McBride, this is exactly how she lost her life.

It is 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday. You wake up to someone knocking at your door – wait, why the hell is anyone knocking at your door at this time?

Do you ignore it and hope they leave? Call the police if you’re scared? Or do you shoot them and then fail to call 911?

This isn’t the most logical thing to do if there is no sign that you or your home is in danger, unless, of course, you’re in a state with “stand your ground” laws.

The homeowner said he shot McBride in “self-defense.” Curiously, Dearborn Heights, Mich. police initially told a different story in which McBride’s body was dumped near the home, relinquishing the homeowner of any responsibility.

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office has thus far refused to issue an arrest warrant until further information is collected. Police have also refused to identify the homeowner who shot her, which is rather suspicious. Who are they trying to protect?

Journalist Rania Khalek said that “stand your ground” laws encourage “self-defense” in the case of “perceived” threats. In a racist society, obvious or not, we can never assume that our perceptions are unbiased.

In McBride’s case, she was unarmed. She knocked at the door for help and was shot. There were no broken windows or any clear sign of danger reported from the homeowner. For McBride, however, the danger lay in knocking on doors in a neighborhood that is 86 percent white.

Unfortunately, the law will likely hold the homeowner unaccountable for slaying McBride since Michigan is a “stand your ground” state. Often, such laws protect murders in which race plays a factor.

According to an analysis by MetroTrends, in “stand your ground” killings, white-on-black murders are far more likely to be found justified than in non-“stand your ground” states. Even in the states without such laws, white-on-black homicides are still more likely to be found justified. It’s difficult to argue that there isn’t an implicit bias in such scenarios.

Does this sound familiar? George Zimmerman was found innocent for the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager. Racists came out of the woodwork to call Martin a “thug,” imposing their prejudices onto a child.

“Stand your ground” laws are the reason Zimmerman was found innocent. It would be unsurprising if these same laws motivate officers to keep the homeowner’s identity protected.

There are prejudices that influence the police’s decisions, and certainly, the laws in place are inherently prejudiced, given the statistics. We can only hope that the shooter will not only be revealed to the public – as should always be the case – but also brought to justice for the coldblooded slaying of McBride.