It’s funny how my lectures seem to align almost seamlessly with what’s going on in the world. Or perhaps I’m just paying more attention now.
Early Saturday morning, Jonathan Ferrell was shot, 10 times, by a local police officer. You can read about here, here, here and here. Or, ya know, just Google the man’s name. Just two days before this young man’s death, I had a conversation with my professor and peers about violence, particularly how the state-sanctioned violence enacted abroad (via war, drones, etc) coincides with the state-sanctioned violence enacted at home (via police officers, etc).
What I didn’t talk about – because I took a day off from being “that girl” – was how the legacy of racism in the US generates fear of the black and brown “other” and legitimates violence enacted against those bodies. How, for instance, the value, or lack thereof, placed on innocent, civilian bodies abroad in, say, any nation affected by drone strikes coincides with the value, or lack thereof, placed on those non-white bodies here at home. Because, to be frank, we’re not dropping bombs on terrorist groups in England, or France or Ireland. And this isn’t the first time that the cops have used excessive force in “self-defense” and it damned sure won’t be the last.
In this particular instance, I consider how the criminalization of Black bodies legitimates fear of Black bodies which in turn legitimates violence against Black bodies. And how all of that contributes to a fundamental disregard for human life when that life is Black. What I find interesting about some of the reports surrounding Ferrell’s death is the way that Sarah McCartney, the woman who called the cops, has been characterized. I asked my fiancé last night “I wonder how she feels about her role in this man’s death?” MSNBC did a “report” on the call she made (linked somewhere above) which immediately victimizes McCartney. “The young mother, alone with her 1-year-old son, rushed to the door thinking that something might have happened to her husband. But the man standing there wasn’t her husband, but a young black man.” She can also be heard telling the dispatcher that she couldn’t find any of her husband’s guns. Another report from CBS, linked also above, states that Ferrell was knocking, I shit you not, “viciously” on McCartney’s front door.
Oooooh. Scary, right. Imagine! Home. ALONE. With a child. Waking up to “vicious” knocking and opening the door to see, of all things, a Black man. By George, I’d have run straight for my gun, too. Because, people trying to break into my home and steal my things are always polite enough to knock first. Viciously, of course.
I wonder how much the fear of aggressive, “vicious,” violent, hypermasculine and hypersexual Black men played on her psyche in that moment. I wonder how this continued fear and criminalization of Blackness caused this woman to shut the door in this man’s face, without ever considering if he was in need of help, and call the cops to report an attempted burglary – a claim which I find both laughable and depressing. She opened the door, closes it, then phones the police while Ferrell is still knocking – and that constitutes attempted burglary?
Imagine where Ferrell and his family would be if we lived in country that (shock and awe) characterized Black people as people, that simply fucking valued Black bodies. Imagine a world where a Black man can knock on a door in the middle of the night and ask for aid and not have to worry about being killed by the cops. Imagine a world where I wouldn’t have to question if McCartney would’ve called the cops, and if Ferrell would still be alive, if Ferrell had been white, or presented as white.