Ashley Harrison
Chicago Police Department

Here is what the law tells us: You have a right to protect yourself.

Here is how the law is applied: If you are black and attempt to protect yourself, it’s highly likely that you will be arrested for protecting yourself.


There is nothing new here. We all know that the application of the law is conditioned upon who has broken it. As with most things in this country (pay, housing, access to health care, incarceration rates, etc.), protection is racial and conditional no matter the circumstances.

Here is how it feels like the law is interpreted: Whites are judged on a case-by-case basis. People of color? Well, lock them up and we’ll figure it out later.


Last week Ashley Harrison, 26, was sitting at an Aurora, Ill., stoplight when a gunman walked up on the car and shot her fiance, Garvin Whitmore, 27, in the head. Frantic, Harrison, authorities say, grabbed a .357 Magnum from inside the car and fired several shots, not at the gunman but into the air. Now Harrison sits in jail.

Two babies have lost their father, Harrison has lost her fiance and her bail is set at $250,000. Video shows her firing the gun into the air, officials say, but justice says she should be charged with a crime.


Where is the commonsense application of the law? Where is the part that says, if we are keeping score, that Harrison is the one who lost but who now sits in jail, away from her babies, for scaring off a gunman who just killed her fiance? Where is the human decency or compassionate portion of the law?

I’m losing faith in humanity when the justice system will lock up a woman who fired shots into the air.


I don’t know how it feels to have a loved one die in front of me from a gunshot to the head. I don’t know if I could, in that moment, find the gun and calm myself enough to fire, not at the person who just killed my fiance, but into the air to get the bad guy to run off.

The gunman is free and the woman, who yelled her fiance’s name to God, pleading with his blood to return to his body, is in jail, and you wonder why a good portion of us don’t believe in the judicial process? This is why we cheered when Baltimore cops were charged in the shooting of Freddie Gray. It’s not because we’re anti-cop; it’s just that injustice is the only justice we’ve known. The cheering comes from centuries of violations against black bodies that continue to go unpunished.


On Monday, Mandeville, La., District Attorney Warren Montgomery announced that he would not seek charges against an armed white customer who shot and killed Shawn Breland, a 41-year-old Army veteran, who was also white. The customer, who was not named in news reports, shot Breland three times during a confrontation April 4 at a Shell gas station. The customer was not arrested and, in the end, not charged. Because police and the district attorney believed that Breland was the aggressor, even though he was unarmed. Justice believed that the armed man had a right to fear for his life.

See the footage below and you be the judge: Tell me that justice doesn’t fall along racial lines. To act as if race doesn’t play a role in the way the law is doled out makes me think that someone else might be wearing Lady Justice’s blindfold.


Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is associate editor of news at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

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