Calls for justice for teenager Ralph Yarl grow after a white man shot him for ringing wrong doorbell

Ralph Yarl: Black Lives Matter, anti-Blackness
Support us and go ad-free

Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old child, was shot by a white man after mistakenly ringing the wrong doorbell. Ralph was trying to pick up his twin brothers from a friend’s home nearby when he called on the wrong house. The occupant shot him twice – once in the head.

The Kansas City Defender reported that Lester shot Ralph through a glass door. Then, when Ralph lay bleeding out on the ground, Lester shot him again. Remarkably, Ralph is now out of critical condition. According to his attorneys, he’s recovering well.

Outrage rose when it was revealed that the shooter, Andrew Lester, had been released without charges following 24 hours in custody. However, on Monday 17 April, Clay County prosecutor Zachary Thompson announced that Lester had been charged with assault in the first degree and armed criminal action. The bail for Lester, whose age was variously given as 84 and 85 by prosecutors and US media, was set at $200,000.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas told CNN:

To pretend that race is not a part of this whole situation would be to have your head in the sand. This boy was shot because he was existing while black.

Deadly shootings are a regular occurrence in the US, a country of around 330 million people that is awash with an estimated 400 million guns. Added to this, anti-Blackness is a global structure which kills Black people around the world. In the US particularly, Black people are faced with a violently anti-Black system socially, culturally, politically, and economically. Ralph’s horrifying experience is entirely in keeping with this system, as many on social media said.

Grief and outrage

Lee Merritt, Ralph’s attorney, summed up the facts of the situation:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Ralph Yarl was shot because he was armed with nothing but other than his Black skin.

Merritt also shared an image with Ralph:

Remarkably, it soon emerged that after being shot Ralph staggered to three different houses looking for help. One social media user explored how abject this was:

Ralph’s schoolmates walked out in support of him:

One teenager who also attends Ralph’s school said:

We wanted to show Ralph that we stand with him and to spread awareness about his situation and know that his school will stand by his side and support him

Journalist John Harwood noted that Lester claimed to be scared of Ralph. White people often cast Black boys as bigger, and thereby more dangerous, than they are – a common myth rooted in racism:

Senior editor at the Huffington Post Philip Lewis noted that Lester’s grandson described him as living in “fear and paranoia”:

Historian Austin McCoy made a connection between the kinds of white people who police their neighbourhoods:

Whose safety?

Incredibly, Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said at a press conference that the information at the time “does not say that it’s racially motivated”. She added:

But as a chief of police, I do recognize the racial components of this case. I do recognize and understand the community’s concern.

Dr. Faith Spoonmore, Ralph’s aunt, said:

This was not an ‘error’; this was a hate crime. You don’t shoot a child in the head because he rang your doorbell. The fact that the police said it was an ‘error’ is why America is the way it is.

Ralph is a child, who should have been safe picking up his brothers. His shooting is yet another example of violent anti-Blackness in the US. White perceptions of safety do not, and cannot, matter more than the safety of Black communities. It’s Lester, and others like him, who uphold white supremacy and terrorise Black communities.

Featured image by Jeff Ackley/Unsplash

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

Support us and go ad-free

We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support

The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.

The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.

So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.

Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Clearly, anti-Black racism might have played a part in this horrible incident. But it is revealing of Canary’s narrow ideological focus that it chose this one, rather than the case this week of Robert Louis Singleton, a man in North Carolina with Black skin, who allegedly shot a six-year-old child with white skin whose ball ran into his garden. Racialising everything allows the media to divert attention from the power of capital and the potential of the united working class of all racial categories to overturn it. Canary is no better than The Guardian in this.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.