The Dunn verdict is really the cherry on top of the sh*t sundae that is Black History Month. First, We got assigned February — the month nobody wants, the only month that contains the letters ‘F’ and ‘U.’ And then, in case we didn’t get the message, they round out the month by letting another white guy off for gunning down a Black kid. You do know Black History Month isn’t like deer season or turkey season, right? It’s not the month when you’re allowed to shoot Black people.
Sure, [Jordan Davis and his friends] looked unarmed to us. And to the police, and to the other eyewitnesses. But that’s because we’re not wearing fear goggles. That’s the lens through which chronically terrified white people look at Black kids. Like, say, a guy who carries a gun in his glove compartment and thinks Florida juries favor Black people.
Once you put on fear goggles, you’ll hit anything with a bullet.
Michael Dunn got away with murder.Oh, he’ll likely spend the rest of his life in prison on the three counts of attempted second-degree murder. Those are the charges of which a Jacksonville, Fla., jury took four days to find him guilty, for the 10 bullets he fired at 17-year-old Jordan Davis and his three friends that fateful November more than a year ago because they wouldn’t turn down the “thug music” that he despised.
Dunn’s conviction has given Jordan’s parents, Lucia McBath and Ron Davis, a bit of closure to know that their son’s killer won’t walk away free, that while he robbed Jordan of the chance to reach middle age, he also robbed himself of the chance to reach old age in a retirement village instead of a cell block.
But the jury couldn’t decide whether Dunn, 47, was justified in killing Jordan, who argued with him and cursed him when he asked them to turn down the music. Not only could they not decide whether Dunn’s slaying of the unarmed teenager amounted to first-degree murder, but they also couldn’t decide whether it amounted to second-degree murder or manslaughter.
Which leads me to ask: What if Jordan had been the only one in that Dodge Durango?
– Tonyaa Weathersbee, The Root
I walk around in this young Black male body and I understand that it causes fear. It causes a reaction. It causes police to look at me more carefully. It could kill me. This is the burden that I bear just by being born Black and living in America is the fact that I have been born into a racist system, a racist society that has placed on my Black male body a set of ideas that invoke fear in people. That’s what Jordan Davis was dealing with. That’s what Trayvon Martin was dealing with, and it killed them.
– Mychal Denzel Smith, as said on MSNBC, Feb. 16.
Is this PSA timely or too soon?
The Coalition to Stop Gun violence released a PSA against Stand Your Ground – by recreating pieces of the Trayvon Martin shooting, using pieces from the 911 calls, and finally panning to shots of dead young dead teens from other states. (The video may be emotionally disturbing, but safe for work.) Exhorting viewers to “Stand Up Against Stand Your Ground,” the PSA notes there are 26 states that have the controversial law on the books.
The treatment for this PSA is puzzling. You don’t hear much from unnamed teen/Trayvon-doppleganger – while his cellphone is clear in the shot, it is Zimmerman’s side of the conversation that is playing. And while the images of the dead teens is chilling, the imagery only works if you don’t see these kids as potential criminals – and post Zimmerman trial, it is clear we cannot assume that the public perceives all teens as equal. The imagery in the commercial is powerful – but is it effective?
You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.
There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.
And I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear. The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.
Now, this isn’t to say that the African American community is naïve about the fact that African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system; that they’re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It’s not to make excuses for that fact — although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context. They understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.
And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African American boys are more violent — using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.
- Full transcript available via The White House
By Guest Contributor Lisa Wade, Ph. D.; originally published at Sociological Images
Today a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder. It is widely argued that Florida’s stand your ground statute, which was considered by the defense, and which Zimmerman previously studied in a criminal litigation course, was at play. The statute allows people to use proportionate force in the face of an attack without first trying to retreat or escape. More than 20 other states have such laws.
At MetroTrends, John Roman and Mitchell Downey report their analysis of 4,650 FBI records of homicides in which a person killed a stranger with a handgun. They conclude that stand your ground “tilts the odds in favor of the shooter.” In SYG states, 13.6% of homicides were ruled justifiable; in non-SYG states, only 7.2% were deemed such. This is strong evidence that rulings of justifiable homicide are more likely under stand your ground.
But which homicides?
Ones similar to the one decided in favor of George Zimmerman today. A finding of “justifiable homicide” is much more common in the case of a white-on-black killing than any other kind including a white and a black person. At PBS’s request, Roman compared the likelihood of a favorable finding for the defendant in SYG and non SYG cases, consider the races of the people involved. The data is clear, compared to white-on-white crimes, stand your ground increases the likelihood of a not-guilty finding, but only when a person is accused of killing a black person.
Notice, however, that white people who kill black people are far more likely to be found not-guilty even in states without SYG and black people who kill whites are less likely to be found not-guilty regardless of state law.
It’s simple: We are already biased in favor of the white defendant and against the black victim. Stand your ground laws give jurors more leeway to give defendants the benefit of the doubt. This increase even further the chances that a white-on-black homicide will be considered justifiable because jurors will likely give that benefit of the doubt to certain kinds of defendants and not others. Stand your ground may or may not be a good law in theory but, in practice, it increases racial bias in legal outcomes.
It rained in Sanford, Fla., on Tuesday, just like it did exactly a year ago when Trayvon Martin died there.
The shooting death of an unarmed black 17-year-old at the hands of a part-white, part-Peruvian neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community catapulted the central Florida city into headlines around the world and launched heated discussions about race and guns and Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
Despite the damp conditions Tuesday, a crowd amassed outside Sanford’s Goldsboro Welcome Center and the Goldsboro Historical Museum by midmorning. Museum curator Francis Oliver said she opened the welcome center a few hours early to accommodate the score or so of people who gathered to get a glimpse at the items memorializing the slain teenager.
There are crosses and flags, dolls and pictures of the teenager, Oliver said of the items showcased at the permanent memorial made from the items that initially cropped up outside the Retreat at Twin Lakes, the gated community where Trayvon was fatally shot.
- Marisa Gerber, Los Angeles Times