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Rev. Al Sharpton Headshot

Justice for the Silenced

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Picture for a moment that you were in a car accident, but luckily survived. Thankful for being able to walk away from such a terrible occurrence, you go searching for help. Knocking on someone's door for assistance, you breathe a sigh of relief knowing that aid will soon be on its way. But instead of a friendly gesture of humanity, you're greeted instead with a gunshot to the face. That's the horrific scenario of what happened to young 19-year-old Renisha McBride on Nov. 2nd in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. And to add insult to injury, the homeowner who killed her is still walking around a free man.

McBride's death is a tragedy that simply didn't have to take place. It raises many questions about preconceptions, bias, profiling, motive and more -- all of which need to be thoroughly examined and investigated. But when no arrest has been made and no charges filed, what sort of signal are the authorities sending? A teenager is dead and the shooter is able to continue his own life at free will. Similar to Florida, Michigan is another state where controversial 'stand your ground' laws are in effect. We don't know yet whether McBride's accused killer will invoke 'stand your ground', but we do know that he made a conscious decision to shoot instead of assist the young woman. There is no escaping that truth, and absolutely no reason why he should not be placed in handcuffs and a thorough investigation done immediately.

As a society, we must pause when we see such a heartbreaking incident take place. Have we become so desensitized that shooting a child who was in need of desperate help is just brushed off as an unfortunate occurrence? And has the imagery of African-Americans in pop culture and the media become so blatantly prejudiced, that people view us only as some sort of a threat? McBride's case is eerily similar to another we witnessed in September when an unarmed former Florida A&M University football player went to look for help after he too was in a car accident. Jonathan Ferrell, 24, knocked on a door at a woman's house who then called police to report that a man was attempting to break into the home and rob her. When police arrived, Ferrell ran towards them for assistance, but instead of first aid, he was met with gunfire.

Both McBride's death and Ferrell's death are reminders that there is much work that remains before us across the board. But there is one glaring difference between these two tragedies: the lack of justice. Officer Randall Kerrick was charged with manslaughter due to excessive force in Ferrell's case, but the 54-year-old man accused of shooting and killing McBride has yet to face any charges. Much like George Zimmerman initially roamed freely after shooting and killing Trayvon Martin, this Michigan homeowner has evaded justice. We demand that he be arrested without delay and formally charged. The courts will decide his guilt or innocence, but those with the duty to protect and serve us all must do their job and hold people accountable.

In August, my organization, National Action Network, joined with Martin Luther King III and others to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic 'March on Washington'. As I said that day, and state everyday, we must continue marching, organizing and pushing for change when we still have clear roadblocks in our path towards equality. In the state of Georgia, the family of Kendrick Johnson is still demanding answers in the death of their teenage son who was found inside of a wrestling mat in his high school gym earlier this year. Because of the family's determination to get to the bottom of the truth, a second autopsy was conducted on Johnson where it was determined that he died of blunt force trauma to the neck, contradicting the initial findings. Surveillance video, which includes about 1900 hours of footage from 36 different cameras at the school, is somehow missing time codes, and the particular camera that captures the area where Johnson's body was discovered is somehow out of focus.

According to a report obtained by CNN, the coroner in the case originally described a crime scene where the body was moved and things were compromised. It is only because of the pressure from Johnson's family and attorneys that many of these new revelations are now coming to light. Because they did not just sit back and accept what was told to them without valid proof, we are beginning to see a case that demands a re-investigation and outside oversight. Now we must push for the same transparency and justice for Renisha McBride. Police must arrest the accused killer, formerly charge him and conduct a proper inquiry into the facts. A court of law must then determine the outcome, plain and simple. A family buried their teenage daughter, and her killer hasn't even been charged with a crime.

Now imagine if she were your little girl.