Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were Black, 17-year-olds in Florida. Both were shot and killed by white men who said they fired because they felt their lives were endangered. Both white men were tried by the same State Attorney’s Office. George Zimmerman, who killed Martin, was acquitted and Michael Dunn, who killed Davis, was convicted last Saturday of attempted murder but jurors couldn’t reach a verdict of the more serious count of first degree murder.
What we have here—in both cases—is a miscarriage of justice.
Neither Martin nor Davis was armed, but both in the eyes of their assailants were perceived as thugs, whether dressed in a hoodie or playing loud music.
The loudest sound at the convenience store where Dunn opened fire on Davis and the three others in his vehicle was the sound of his bullets ripping into the van and into Davis’s body.
And now we hear once again the silence of justice, once more we mourn the loss of a young man whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, encountering an angry white man with a gun.
In Spike Lee’s highly acclaimed film “Do the Right Thing,” one of his characters, Radio Raheem, is assailed like Davis for playing his music to loud from a boombox. The proprietor of the store, another angry white man readily exercises his lethal authority, smashes the boombox with a baseball bat which provokes a riot.
It’s truly exasperating trying to wrap one’s head around the continuing deadly menace of armed and dangerous white men who feel obligated to mete out their own brand of rules and regulations.
There’s nothing new at all about such terrifying incidents, they are as old and common as the disfigured body of Emmett Till that was fished from the Tallahatchie River in 1955. And as we all know there was no justice for the young innocent Till. Till stepped beyond the boundaries of the ethics of Jim Crow; Martin and Davis unknowingly bumped into white men who are insidious living examples that we are a long way from a so-called post-racial society. And it makes you wonder too who are the real thugs.
In fact—and this may be an inappropriate psychological assessment of Zimmerman and Dunn—their decisions to enforce their authority could be a reaction to the arrival of Black men in high places; exemplary of thousands of white men who are violently exercised by the presence of a Black president, a Black Attorney General, and the powerful ascendancy of Black masculinity in various other walks of life.
Of course, there will be a quick response to this assertion with the claim that the behavior and actions of Zimmerman and Dunn are aberrations and hardly typical of white men. Granted, and we will leave the psycho-analyzing to more qualified experts.
Even so, we are still outraged by the persistence of such incidents, still petrified by the prevalence of “Stand Your Ground” laws and that white men can hide behind a claim of self-defense and not feel the full brunt of our legal system.
Once more a Black family is in tears, their Black child the victim of senselessness.
We are into the 21st century but some of the conditions Black Americans face are just as barbaric as former times, and it begs the question: Will there ever come a time when angry white men will set aside their impulsive animosity, their perception of young Black men as thugs and hoodlums, and give them the benefit of the doubt rather than a trigger-happy response?
Don’t hold your breath.