On December 1, Ronald Gasser allegedly shot and killed ex-NFL running back Joe McKnight in New Orleans during a road rage incident. Gasser was questioned by police and released the next day. Three days later (December 5), he was arrested and charged with manslaughter.
Gasser is White. McKnight was Black. A new article from The Undefeated’s Martenzie Johnson explores why he thinks race matters in this case. “Joe McKnight and the Fear of a Black Man” wastes no time drawing parallels between this death and other cases of White people taking the lives of Black people.
A week hasn’t even gone by, but those who have been paying attention since at least Feb. 26, 2012, when [Trayvon] Martin was killed, already know how this all will play out. Gasser will claim he feared for his life. Cable news pundits will debate the sanctity of Gasser’s life and what McKnight could have possibly done to get himself shot. The jury will consist of only one or two Black people. They will acquit. Rinse, wash, repeat….
[When he killed Martin, George] Zimmerman, unknowingly, designed a playbook over four years ago that plays off that fear of Blacks for the benefit of White Americans. That fear, coupled with the normalization of White supremacy over the past year is what led to the death of McKnight last week.
Johnson delves deep into the concept of “believed fear”:
This preservation of White supremacy is what brings us back to Gasser and McKnight. Gasser probably isn’t a racist. He’s probably never said the N-word. He probably doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. But his believed fear of a 5-foot-11, 205-pound black man led to him shooting three rounds from inside his car. That believed fear got him detained without resistance by police. That believed fear got him released hours later despite taking the life of another man. Of course this White man felt his life was in danger. And for all that, Gasser received the benefit of the doubt.
Read the essay in its entirety here.