Jonathan Ferrell (ABC News screenshot)
Jonathan Ferrell (ABC News screenshot)

Following the North Carolina police shooting of an unarmed black man who was actually seeking the officer's help, Mary C. Curtis dismantles stereotypes and false perceptions in an incisive piece at the Washington Post. "Falling back on fear of a black man is a shortcut," she writes, "unless you’re looking for something simple — like being treated as an individual human being."

The story was about one particular case — a sad one, to be sure — but one that involved individuals, each with a name and story. When Jonathan Ferrell was killed in Charlotte, N.C., nearly two weeks ago, it shattered his family — which is now planning his Saturday funeral in Tallahassee, Fla. — and forever affected the life of the police officer accused of voluntary manslaughter in his death, no matter the verdict in his trial …

Yet for many who commented on my story and NPR appearance that laid out the facts as they are now known, the case is already closed. For them, the woman who responded to Ferrell’s post-car accident knock on her door for help in the middle of the night with a frantic 911 call about a robber was making the only logical assumption. And Officer Randall Kerrick’s decision to fire 12 times at Ferrell, who police say was coming toward him, was more than justified. No more fact-finding is necessary, according to the critics of the charges filed against the officer.

The people that should be made to answer for the death of the unarmed Ferrell are black men — all of them, they told me. Ferrell, who is African American, was a former college student, a chemistry major and football player at Florida A&M, who worked two jobs and looked forward to marrying his fiancée. The 24-year-old loved Winnie the Pooh when he was a little boy, as his mother said when she clutched his childhood stuffed toy and remembered the life he led and imagined a future cut short. But all that information about the man and his life was trumped by his membership in a group — black men …

Falling back on fear of a black man is a shortcut, unless you’re looking for something simple — like being treated as an individual human being.


Read Mary C. Curtis' entire piece at the Washington Post.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.


Mary C. Curtis is a Roll Call columnist and contributor to NPR and NBCBLK. She has worked at the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun, the Charlotte Observer and Politics Daily and as a contributor to the Washington Post. She is a senior facilitator for the OpEd Project at Cornell and Yale universities. Follow her on Twitter.

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