I have sat in front of my laptop contemplating this article about the cold blooded murder of Jordan Davis and subsequent trial which resulted Saturday 15th November in a mistrial on first degree murder charges of Michael Dunn, his killer. It is mind boggling to me that the jury in finding Dunn guilty of attempted murder, somehow thought he was guilty of trying to murder Jordan’s friends, but did not murder Davis.
The verdict is as schizophrenic as the pathology that allows that black boys are a danger to society even as they repeatedly fall victim to the very society which claims to be afraid of them.
I remember watching news of the cold blooded killing of Trayvon Martin and thinking, as I’m sure did many other African American families “god forbid this could be any one of my young relatives, or children of friends”. For Ron Davis, Jordan Russell Davis’ father, tragically, that day did come, merely months after Ron Davis had remarked on how much his son resembled Trayvon Martin when Jordan Davis had donned a hoodie.
On yet another occasion, the killer of a black child goes unpunished. Yet one more time, justice has been denied to the family of a murdered black child, like Trayvon Martin before him, like Emmett Till decades before him. Michael Dunn showed no remorse whatsoever in the killing of a mere child, whose only crime surely was nothing more than that this black child’s very existence in his presence was an affront to Michael Dunn.
We could debate the demerits of the case including whether or not Michael Dunn truly feared for his life, or whether the “thug music” annoyed him, indeed whether he needed to shoot 10 times into a carful of children, but all these details, as lacking in justification as they are, really truly do not address the real issue here. Even the infamous stand your ground law that has been so oft discussed in this case as in Trayvon Martin’s case, really doesn’t address the heart of the matter.
Since Trayvon Martin was killed, there has been three additional publicized gun killings of young blacks, at their prime by whites including Jonathan Ferrell who was fatally shot 10 times by a police officer in Charlotte, N.C. as he sought help after an accident. There was the shooting death of Renisha McBride in Detroit, in an eerily similar case, again, when she sought help after an accident. There was also the shooting death of 20 year old Bo Morrison on Mar 3rd 2012, by Adam Kind, the white neighbor of the house where Bo had attended a party.
While all these killings are shocking, can they surely be considered surprising? George Zimmerman like Michael Dunn not only showed no remorse, but both men displayed righteous indignation and even celebrated their acts, as what they surely clearly saw as ridding the world of the vermin of black menace. How else can these callous killings be viewed?
Bo Morrison’s killer was spared charges under Wisconsin’s castle doctrine, a version of Florida’s stand your ground law. It was only this last January 27th that the officer who shot Jonathan Ferrell was indicted for the killing after a grand jury had initially refused to even charge him even with voluntary manslaughter.
Juxtapose the above killings with the fatal Florida movie theatre shooting death of 43 yr old Chad Oulson, a white man who was shot by also white retired police officer, Curtis Reeves. Chad Oulson, rightly or wrongly is alleged to have grabbed Reeves’ popcorn bag and thrown it at him, upon which Reeves responded in what he alleges was self-defense. Curtis Reeves was charged right away, and news coverage was immediately humanizing of Chad Oulson. Judge Lynn Tepper refused to grant bond to Reeves, emotionally stating that “the evidence of guilt is significant”
In all the killings of the black youth, the conduct of the black children was repeatedly scrutinized and put on trial in the court of public opinion and by analysts in the media. The judge in the Zimmerman case asserted that there was no evidence of ill will on the part of Zimmerman.
What is most shocking in all the killings of the black children is that not only do the killers display no remorse, but that there are racial divisions in the outrage and empathy towards these children’s’ families shown by the public over their killings. In fact, George Zimmerman had white supporters who raised considerable amounts of money for his defense.
It is shocking and disturbing to me that presumably otherwise reasonable folk see no reason to even indict in so many of these cases, and it is shocking that juries somehow find nuance in these cases that are otherwise so clear cut to the majority of black folk.
It is shocking that otherwise seemingly reasonable analysts go on TV and discuss without any irony, the merits of usually older, bigger, armed white men finding black boys and girls threatening enough to draw their weapons and shoot.
I have not seen any case about black men shooting to death innocent white men and women merely because they find their presence threatening, and yet, the irony of white folk fearing black folk seems to be completely lost.
Throughout the history of this country, black men have been beaten, lynched and shot to death by white folk, with no consequence to the whites involved. Yet, it appears that so much of the public apparently seems to consider it reasonable to view black men as menacing and threatening, either because of their attire, and now apparently the music we listen to, or merely our presence.
I am a grad school educated columnist and professional, and yet, I have been stopped repeatedly by cops while driving and even while riding my bike, for no apparent reason other than that I am a black man. Twice I got tickets for riding my bike on a Brooklyn sidewalk, once I was stopped while driving because the officer wanted to make sure I had my seatbelt on, which I did. On another occasion, I was stopped for apparently driving too slowly in a Washington DC neighborhood, where I was told there was rampant drug use.
These experiences are not unique to me and when I went to court to fight the tickets, I was shocked by how full the courtroom was with young black boys, apparently answering similarly mundane charges of trespassing, riding bikes on sidewalks, public urination etc etc.
Stand your ground is an egregious law that grants killers with extra protection in the rampant gun culture that is the United States, and these laws must be reversed. However, these egregious laws cannot explain the impunity with which young black men are gunned down, whether it be by white men, police, or even in the handgun black on black violence of cities such as my new home city of Chicago.
What all these gun killings are an indictment of is rather, the view of the black male as less than deserving of the protection of equal justice under the law. What is on trial in all these cases, is the racist exclusion particularly of young black boys, but also black girls as in the case of Renisha McBride, from what is considered as normal society. Black men in particular face higher unemployment rates in what is a systematic exclusion from economic participation.
This systematic exclusion from what is considered normal American society exists in red states as in blue states, under conservative jurisdictions as in democratic jurisdictions. We live in segregated neighborhoods throughout the United States, from New York to LA, Seattle to Miami and our children attend schools that have only seen a 0.54% increase in integration since the landmark ruling of Brown vs. the board of education which outlawed the legal segregation of schools, over 60 years ago.
Until black boys and black girls can be seen as full human beings in America, stand your ground laws or not, unfortunately, we can only sit with bated breath, in fear of when we will read yet again of another innocent black life lost to an extra judicial killing, because their very presence caused affront to an armed white person in their vicinity.