Monday, September 16, 2013

Jonathan A. Ferrel, Florida A&M, Charlotte, NC, Randall Kerrick, Racial Profiling, Police Shooting

By Mildred Robertson

I remember among my first lessons in kindergarten was that, when you were in trouble, there were a couple of strangers you could count on to help you…firefighters, and policemen. They were there to protect and serve you – right?

Well back in 1957, going to a predominately white school, that was a pretty accurate description for most of my classmates. Unfortunately, that is not a lesson Black children can take to heart.

It was a fatal mistake for Jonathan A. Ferrel, a former football player for Florida A&M, to assume that police had arrived to rescue him following his automobile accident on September 14, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ferrel had climbed from his wrecked vehicle in northeast Charlotte, and walked to the nearest house seeking help. It was around 2:00 a.m. in the morning, and the lone woman who answered the door called the police. That was a reasonable action for her to take. I understand her reaction. It is the reaction of the police that must be called into question.

Ferrel, probably assuming that he would finally get the help he needed, ran toward the police. The police did not see a citizen in distress – they saw a Black man, a criminal, a suspect, running toward them.

There was no benefit of the doubt for Ferrel.

He was running toward them, so he had to be some kind of threat, right? So, it was okay to use lethal force, right? And so, another Black man, whose only crime appeared to be living while Black, had his life snatched from him by racism and ignorance.

Perhaps the Charlotte police learned something from the Trayvon Martin case. They quickly reversed their position that the shooting was appropriate and lawful, and concluded that 27 year-old police officer Randall Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon. They charged him with voluntary manslaughter and released him on $50,000 bail. It still remains to be seen, however, if Ferrel and his family will get justice in the end.

We recently celebrated the 50th year of the March on Washington and MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and we witnessed a man of Black ancestry win the highest office in the land. Yet, Black people across America are seldom judged by the content of their character, at least not at first glance.

This story and others like it are far too common. It is time that we stop lamenting the demonization of the Black man in America and do something about it. It will not be an easy task, because the news media and pop culture have created a caricature of what it means to be black that is accepted by most of America.

It is apparent that the states cannot meaningfully address this issue. It is a national issue, and a national response is required. Just as Lyndon B. Johnson found that federal action was required to ensure justice for the nation’s Black citizens back in the 60’s, it is time for the federal government to step up and address the issue of racial profiling that has resulted in the murder of numerous unarmed Black men under the guise of self-defense.

How many innocent Black men must die a violent death before someone says—ENOUGH! It is time the federal government declares an end to the open season on Black men.

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