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Made Of Shade

dream hampton On Renisha McBride

On November 2, Renisha McBride, 19, was shot on a front porch by a 54-year-old homeowner in Dearborn Heights, Michigan.

After weeks of waiting, he has finally been identified as Theodore Wafer and charged with murder.

According to news reports, McBride was involved in a car accident and approached a homeowner for assistance. But she was taken away in a body bag after the homeowner allegedly shot her in the head, which he reportedly said was “an accident.”

Perhaps Wafer was frightened by the presence of a Black person in a lily White suburb–wayward thinking birthed from White supremacy and images of the so-called dangerous Black person as seen in the media on a daily basis.

However, the homeowner also could have picked up the phone and called the police if he felt threatened. Dropping a box of nails on the floor can happen as an accident. Spilling milk is an accident.  Walking into a door is an accident.  How does one shoot another in a face by accident?

I challenge you to replay and reenact the scenario. The “accidental shooting” excuse is what’s been used for eons by supremacists. Anger surfaces in Detroit, and across the nation, as folks struggle to make sense of why Renisha McBride’s life was taken.

dream hampton has given a voice to the often forgotten and voiceless for years now. As a writer, hampton has written about music, culture and politics of importance for over 20 years. Where some writers are afraid to tackle serious issues for fear of offending folks, dream has no fear.

Her activism is equally respected as her pen game.  dream is not just a writer and activist, she’s a filmmaker and lover of justice.

The Detroit legend brought massive media attention to the Renisha McBride shooting after she organized a gathering as a call for justice for McBride.  dream and I had an intense dialogue about the slain teen, and the devaluing of Black children, men and women in the world of White supremacy.

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Quassan: Months after we’ve been slapped in the face with this crazy George Zimmerman ruling, we have yet another young Black person killed for nothing.  This time, for simply making attempts to ask for assistance after a car accident in a White suburb. You said in a recent interview, “About every six weeks we basically have some racial killing story.” From your critical lens, why is this sort of madness and blatant disregard for the Black life, taking place over and over again? 

dream hampton: The grassroots movement receives reports every 36 hours about more than 100 extra judicial killings of Black people since Trayvon Martin was killed. I don’t like to evoke Travyon in this situation. This case reminds me more of Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed man who was shot 10 times by a police officer.

White supremacy teaches us that White men are at the top of the spectrum and Black folks are at the bottom. Evidence of this comes into play when we see images of White men as God. White supremacy thinking teaches us that the lives of people of color are not of value. People of color include Asian, Latino, Mexican, Pacific Islander and Native American. White supremacy is something that we can internalize ourselves, so that if a Black person comes to our door, we are more fearful of him than a White person.

White supremacy conditions us to believe that black bodies are dangerous; it’s played out in the media and the news every day.

Quassan: Let’s talk about the rally you held for Renisha McBride. I know the shooting prompted the rally. What messages do you believe needs to be made and who needs to hear the messages? 

dream hampton: I was reading the news and I couldn’t sleep. I was horrified by the story. My daughter is a senior in high school and she’s been driving for six months.  She’s not a very confident driver. Her cell phone is always dying. She could be involved in a car accident and have no phone to call me. As a mother, I was outraged at what happened to Renisha. I was raised in Detroit.  It’s the city I chose to come back to and raise my daughter after being in New York City for 18 years.

I asked people in social media if they would meet me at the police department, my friend wrote a press release and we made our voices heard.

Quassan: Do you think White folks who never encounter Black folks on a daily basis are paranoid when they come face-to-face with Black folks? If so, what is the premise for paranoid White folks fearing Blacks?

dream hampton: There is a fear of Black bodies. Black bodies are criminalized when they are young, old, alive and even in death. What we watched with Travyon was criminalization unfolding in court. When we see doubt brought upon the Renisha Mcbride story by police or whomever, criminalization is taking place. As a community, we value Black males more than we value Black females.

We know Trayvon Martin and other brothers who’ve been killed. Many of us don’t know Rakia Boyd or Aiyana Jones. We don’t keep our sisters’ names held up in the same manner in which we keep our brothers’ names up. The devaluing of the Black sisters killed is about patriarchy.

Quassan: The shooter claims to have made a mistake. Such has been the claim of many folks who blast someone head off and then walk free. How do you view the shooter’s claim of accidentally shooting Renisha?

dream hampton: I have no idea what the shooter is saying. I do know had the shooter shot a 19-year-old White girl, the shooter would be in jail. Police would have arrested a Black man or woman who had a body on their porch even if they hadn’t been the shooter.

Quassan: What do you want for Renisha McBride’s family?

dream hampton: I want the family to receive justice. I want justice.

Quassan: I know you work tirelessly to give voices to those who are often voiceless. You honor women and girls who have died in senseless murders.  Who are other Black women and girls who have lost their lives unjustly that come to mind?

dream hampton: I’m writing about a girl who lost her life. A White man and Black man are in prison for her death. Her name is Shelly Hilliard, a 19-year-old transgender girl. She was killed in the most brutal way; I don’t even want to describe how she was killed.  We just had two women dumped in the dumpster in Detroit this weekend. Black women’s lives don’t mean much. If Renisha McBride name was Taylor and she was a White girl, she would not have been shot and no one would have gone to the door with a gun. Also, if a person of color had shot a White girl, the person of color would be in handcuffs.

Quassan Castro is a news,  entertainment journalist and columnist.  “Made of Shade,” is his widely popular column with JETmag.com. Chat with Quassan on twitter @Quassan. Let him know your thoughts.