In the days that have passed since the Jordan Davis/Michael Dunn mistrial verdict on the count of murder in first degree, the following picture has been circulated frequently via social media. Put a pin in that, we’ll come back to it.
Before we go further, let me go ahead and say this upfront. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not even qualified to be a paralegal and I’ve never been to or seen an Everest College campus or student. So I’ll concede that my legal acumen is subpar, but I do have a really hard time understanding how you can be convicted of attempted murder for spraying a car but not be convicted of the success of your attempts.
While I don’t understand it, I see how it happened. While watching news coverage on Friday evening of the jury deliberations via the Jane Velez-Mitchell show on HLN, they were taking callers. One of the callers, clearly an older white male stated what I feel is an unfortunate but not surprising sentiment shared by many folks paying attention: why did the boys in the truck drive off then come back without taking him to the hospital? It is the belief of quite a few people that somehow, someway, those boys dumped of the gun that made this man feel scared for his life enough to dump 10 shots into a Durango at fairly close range. Somehow, this man (and a few other callers) seemed very disinterested in the psychopathic nature of Mr. Dunn, just the behavior of the youth that caused Mr. Dunn to fear for his life. Emphasis mine and intentional. Causation is a b*tch.
Which leads back to the picture and the message therein. Simply, white folks and Black folks have different “important” talks with their sons. This is true. It was true before the recent spate of high profile deaths by Black males at the hands of white people and it will be true if we never have another Black man die in the same fashion again.
To put it all on the table and go Captain Obvious, there has always been a different set of rules for Black people and white people. I remember my father teaching me the most important lesson of my even now to date. He sat me down and said to me quite clearly, “(Panama), your mother is white. You are not.” I never had any identity issues after that. But what followed was a string of conversations about what it meant to be a Black man in America. What was most interesting is that I didn’t even live in America while I was receiving these conversations. Near my home in Bad Homburg, Germany (right outside of Frankfurt) was this huge field. My father would tell me to come with him and we’d make the long walk to the field and walk around and he’d fill me in on life. Sometimes it was about the birds and the bees, but many times it was about what life looks like for people like us.
I imagine those conversations have been happening for 100s of years at this point. Because it’s always been different. Hell, my father STILL manages to drop those nuggets of information when its relevant. It’s why most Black males (and Black people) have such a healthy distrust of the police. Its also not just the police, either. It’s what happens AFTER the police do police things to us. It’s the knowledge that your freedom is pretty much like a car window. You can roll it up and lock your doors, but its just a piece of glass. If somebody wants to break into your car, it takes nothing to get into it. Your freedom is fragile and easy to destroy. And once its been tampered with, you realize that everybody else gets the opportunity to destroy you regardless of the facts. The numbers of people released due to the Innocence Project illustrates that very clearly. As a Black male, you spend your life doing your damnedest trying to NOT end up in the system at all. Well, most of us do. You figure if you just live your life right then you should be okay. And that probably is the situation.
But its when we’re robbed of the potential of the Black community that we’re reminded just how fragile that freedom is. Which is why we have to have those talks in the first place. Those talks wouldn’t have prevented that situation. In fact, the necessary talk in Florida is probably to tell all Black males to avoid all interaction with white men. But that’s just not realistic, is it?
I also saw this other picture all over social media. I think this one is a bit unfair. Nobody is going to want to hear this but it’s not just “white vision” glasses that see this picture. While I’m happy that we can all rally in our community behind miscarriages of justice in the courtroom, and Black boys do matter, many Black people view certain Black males in the exact same fashion as white people do – sometimes for the same reasons, sometimes for different reasons. I get the point being made, and perhaps its unnecessary to even point out that Black folks are just as guilt of this stereotyping, but my point is that we have some work to do on our own. We’re mad that Black boys don’t matter, but to some degree, we’re just not pulling the trigger on them. That’s food for thought for that ass.
And I’ll be the first to admit how conflicted I can be. It’s like the scene in Crash where Ludacris’s character is going on about how unfair it is to be stereotyped as a thug who is about to commit a robbery…and then commits a robbery because he’s exactly who they think he is. It’s the justification for paranoia: If I’m right then I’m right; but if I’m wrong, I could have been right, so I’m still right because maybe I’m not wrong. While this doesn’t hold up in court (or at least shouldn’t), I know many people who not only live by this credo, they are married to it til death do they part. Interestingly, none of them feel Dunn was right in any way, shape, or form.
“I don’t have to do sh*t but stay Black and die.” I’ve heard this statement more times that I can count. Usually stated in some form of defiance after somebody attempts to tell another what to do. Rarely is it meant to be prophesy. It’s supposed to be dying on our own terms as God intends. Not at the hands of another who doesn’t respect your life or even acknowledge that it exists.
Stay Black and die. Okay. But we probably need to amend those talks not only to include the police and the justice system to “boy, you don’t have to do anything but stay Black and try not to die at the hands of white man who will not be held accountable by those police or that justice system I already told you about.”
-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST