Sunday, February 16, 2014

Jordan Davis and the heritage of racism

I first heard of the death of Jordan Davis from Melissa Harris Perry when she reacted to it by suggesting that "this is no country for young black men."

Then a few nights ago, I got obsessed with watching videos of the testimony in the trial and closing arguments. I became pretty well versed on the issues of the legal case. As we heard the questions emerge from the jury, by yesterday morning I knew what the verdict would be. Last night when it finally arrived, it came as no surprise to me.

While I join with those who are disappointed that the jury was deadlocked on the charge of the murder of Jordan, it is important to me that this is NOT the same thing that happened when George Zimmerman was tried for the murder of Trayvon Martin. First of all, Michael Dunn was convicted of attempting to murder the other three boys in the car. For that he will likely be in prison for the rest of his life. And secondly, the prosecutor has already announced that she will re-try Dunn on the first degree murder of Jordan Davis. So this saga is not yet over.

Those who didn't watch the trial might not know that Dunn's testimony was that he had a verbal altercation with Jordan and "thought" he saw a weapon. In response, he started shooting. As the car Jordan was in tried to flee, Dunn got out of his car and continued shooting at it, narrowly missing killing the driver. It was this latter shooting that the jury agreed was attempted murder.

I join those who suggest that Dunn's account of what happened between he and Jordan is simply not credible. Police found no gun in the car, no one but Dunn heard any threats from Jordan, Dunn fled the scene without calling the police and he didn't say anything to his fiance about a gun over the next 24 hours as he tried to reassure her. But as I understand the law, the prosecutors had to prove - beyond a reasonable doubt - that Jordan did NOT have a gun. It is almost impossible to prove a negative. That, my friends, is the result of the odious and racist Stand Your Ground law.

I'll also be curious to hear what the jurors have to say about how they became deadlocked on the charge of the murder of Jordan Davis. On that one count, they were given 3 options: murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree and manslaughter. The entire jury of 12 was required to agree - not only on Dunn's guilt or innocence on that charge - but on which one. From the minute I heard the judges instructions to the jury on that count, I realized that was perhaps a bridge too far.

And so today many continue to rail against the poor job the prosecutor did and/or the incompetence of the jury. I'm sure there are complaints in those cases that are justified. But we lose sight of the real culprit when that is our focus. The one thing we can do to ensure that what Dunn did is clearly a crime is to get rid of the Stand Your Ground laws. To me, that would be the most powerful way to honor the short life of Jordan Davis.

As is so often the case, Ta-Nehisi Coates does an amazing job of articulating the issues.
Jordan Davis had a mother and a father. It did not save him. Trayvon Martin had a mother and a father. They could not save him. My son has a father and mother. We cannot protect him from our country, which is our aegis and our assailant. We cannot protect our children because racism in America is not merely a belief system but a heritage, and the inability of black parents to protect their children is an ancient tradition...

I insist that the irrelevance of black life has been drilled into this country since its infancy, and shall not be extricated through the latest innovations in Negro Finishing School. I insist that racism is our heritage, that Thomas Jefferson's genius is no more important than his plundering of the body of Sally Hemmings, that George Washington's abdication is no more significant than his wild pursuit of Oney Judge, that the G.I Bill's accolades are somehow inseparable from its racist heritage. I will not respect the lie. I insist that racism must be properly understood as an Intelligence, as a sentience, as a default setting which, likely to the end of our days, we shall unerringly return.
If you have any doubts about what he's saying - read the links he provided. The heritage to which he refers is now demonstrated via a law that suggests that a white man need only "feel" threatened by a black one in order to play judge, jury and executioner. In a culture that has for centuries told us that the mere existence of a black man is threatening, that means its open season on their lives.

I'll leave you with some thoughts from Joshua DuBois.


  1. Why was first degree murder the charge? Was he lying in wait? Did he plan this murder? Isn't 1st Degree Murder nearly impossible to win even in the best of circumstances?

    1. For me, the minute Dunn went for his gun with the intent to shoot Jordan, it was 1st degree murder. As the prosecution pointed out - premeditation is not dependent on time.

    2. One other thing. If the prosecutor had charged 2nd degree murder, the jury would have still had to decide between that, manslaughter, or not guilty. We'll have to wait and see what they tell us about where the conflict was.

    3. Did you see any other witnesses testifying that the music was particularly loud? That this is being called "the loud music trial" illustrates the implicit bias on the part of the press and the public. There have been no shortage of commentators blaming the victims as if playing music "too loud" is a hanging offense.

      I've no doubt that in Dunn's seedy and murderous, racist mind that audible and identifiable as black music would be all he needed in order to excuse violent confrontation. He stood in front of them, put a clip in his gun, and fired at them even as they were fleeing the scene. At least he's going to prison. As you say, thought, Stand Your Ground has got to go. The paranoia among white, male, racist, gun nuts should be countered, not cultivated and licensed.

  2. Without a gun.....would this bully coward even get out of his car? ALEC and the NRA are drowning in the blood of innocents along with the GOP states adopting this disgusting law. Please vote them out, it is our only chance along with a Supreme Court that truly represents this country, not the billionaires.

  3. You buried the footer. After quite rightfully blaming the Stand Your Ground Laws, you promote a quote from Ta Nehisi Coates, in which she implies that Satan is to blame. If a white person spoke like that, it would never be aired.

    This is yet another example of the MSM selecting the most rational white people and the least rational black people to discuss culture. Instead of fighting this racist anti-pragmatic rig, you're highlighting it, on the blood of innocent victims of racism. You need to do a serious reality check.


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