Standing your ground? Black woman shot in head seeking help in white neighborhood

The family of Renisha McBride, 19, seeks answers after she was shot in the head and the shooter may avoid charges

Published November 6, 2013 9:53PM (EST)

 Renisha McBride, 19, shot dead         (Screenshot, Fox 2)
Renisha McBride, 19, shot dead (Screenshot, Fox 2)

"You see a young black lady on your porch and you shoot?” demanded Bernita Sparks, the aunt of slain Detroit 19-year-old Renisha McBride. McBride was shot in the head and killed when, according to her family, she was seeking help, knocking on doors in a white neighborhood after her car crashed.

McBride's family is asking prosecutors for information on the incident that left the unarmed young woman dead. Scant details have been provided. As the Detroit News reported "Dearborn Heights [Police Department has] identified the person who fired the shot and killed the woman." However, police have claimed that the shooter believed McBride to be an intruder and shot in self-defense. Initial police reports that described the 19-year-old's body as having been "dumped" have been amended to state that she was found on the shooter's porch.

Self-defense gone wrong is not a sufficient excuse for a bullet in the head, McBride's family has stressed. "He shot her in the head ... for what? For knocking on his door,” said Spinks. “If he felt scared or threatened, he should have called 911.”

Police have now asked that charges be brought against the shooter. But since a "stand your ground" law applies in Michigan, the charges may not stick. As Rania Khalek has rightly pointed out on her blog, "The problem with a law like Stand Your Ground is that it excuses and encourages deadly force against 'perceived' threats. In the United States, where implicit and structural racism persists on a vast scale, is it wise to empower people who almost certainly have irrational and racist fears."

And as Khalek notes in the case of McBride's shooting, "She is after all a black woman from Detroit, which is 82 percent black, whereas Dearborn Heights, the area she was shot in, is 86 percent white ... Regardless of your position on Stand Your Ground, one thing is for sure. The family of 19-year-old Renisha McBride deserves answers."

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Dearborn Heights Detroit Guns Michigan Race Racism Renisha Mcbride Self-defense Shooting Stand-your-ground