All eyes are on Charlotte, North Carolina because Officer Randall Kerrick is currently on trial for the 2013 shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell.
Although Ferrell was unarmed and injured after surviving a car crash, his life was still taken at the hands of Kerrick.
However, this is not your average high-profile case with media attention. People are not watching this trial simply to see if the jury decides on a guilty or non-guilty verdict.
The Kerrick trial is about much more than a verdict for the people of Charlotte, especially for those of color.
Let’s start with the two facts presented in the case.
First, Kerrick is on trial for voluntary manslaughter and the jury will ultimately decide if he used excessive force when he shot Jonathan Ferrell 12 times, or if it was unarmed Ferrell who legitimately posed a deadly threat to the trained officer.
Second, Ferrell was on his way home from an outing with friends, injured after crashing his vehicle and seeking help in an east Charlotte neighborhood. The homeowner that called 911 said she was afraid that Ferrell, who was knocking on the door, was trying to break into the home. Kerrick and two other officers responded to the call and the “confrontation” that ensued resulted in the loss of Ferrell’s life.
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) August 6, 2015
Officer Kerrick’s voluntary manslaughter trial is about much more than just guilt or innocence.
This trial is about humanity, racism, value of life, and the perception of not just Jonathan Ferrell, but each and every citizen that looks like him.
Looks are so vital in this case because according to the officer, Ferrell appeared to be threatening enough to warrant firing 10 bullets into his already injured, 24-year-old frame. Ferrell’s looks played a role into how he was perceived by the homeowner that called the police – she assumed he was trying to break in, even though he was knocking on her door and pleading for help.
Looks are important in this trial because if Ferrell was not a former scholarship collegiate football player and instead a 5’5″ white female, would this story have a different outcome? If a 5’5″ white female was out seeking help, would she be perceived as someone in need – like Ferrell actually was – or assumed to be someone dangerous, as the white officer Kerrick and the white homeowner ultimately assumed? If Ferrell looked differently, would he have been seen as “charging” at the officers in a “zombie-like” fashion or would he have been seen merely as a ruffled citizen who just survived a car crash?
As I watch the trial of Officer Randall Kerrick, my concerns reach far beyond the actual verdict.
If I find myself in dire times, I worry that, as a black male, I will be seen as a physical threat to the lives of those sworn to protect me instead of as a human being in need.
I have to worry if my humanity will be stripped if I leave this earth at the hands of an officer, and if the media will paint me to be some violent, threatening brute who deserved to die.
As America awaits the outcome of Kerrick’s trial, many of us remain concerned about our own livelihood, no matter what the verdict in this case is revealed to be.
How can we ever be humanized in the eyes of a police force that case after case, continues to treat us as guilty, even in times of innocence?