[Opinion] Out Of Answers: The Senseless Killing Of Jordan Davis And Saving Black Boys


Pulled from the archives of The Well Versed.
Published 11/29/12

By now, the sequence of events is similar.

Young black person shot in what appears to be a totally preventable accident, media follows the story, community expresses outrage, said outrage dies down and life continues. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Nine months after Trayvon Martin’s shooting, the cycle is happening again. Once again in Florida. This time over “loud music.”

Seventeen-year-old Jordan Davis was shot several times at a Florida gas station by 45-year-old Michael Dunn Friday night after an argument ensued over the volume of the music coming from the car Davis was riding in.

As CNN reports:

Dunn told authorities that he had asked the teens to turn down loud music from their vehicle adjacent to his, as he waited while his girlfriend, who was returning with him from a wedding, went inside the gas station to make a purchase.

Dunn told police he felt threatened by the response from the teens, the statement said.


Dunn’s attorney, Robin Lemonidis, told CNN Monday that Dunn told police that he reacted after having seen a gun barrel in the window of the teens’ car and after hearing a profanity-laced string of threats against him and his girlfriend while the teens motioned they were opening the door…

Eight or nine shots were fired at the teens’ car, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office statement added.

There were no guns found inside the teens’ car, the statement said.

Lemonidis said her client and his girlfriend left the scene after the shooting, fearing that they had encountered gang members and that more would follow.

If it hasn’t happened already, there will be the inevitable chorus of naysayers who will callously say Davis “had it coming.” They’ll cite the loud music and take Dunn’s account that he felt threatened as the gospel truth.

I’m not quite sure how firing eight rounds into a moving vehicle isn’t an “intention to kill anyone,” as Dunn’s attorney also told CNN, but I suppose in an age where people mindlessly fire off rounds in first person shooter video games, anything is possible.

Part of the rights of passage for a great deal of young black men is learning how to deal with the police. What to do if you’re stopped in a car, what to do if you’re stopped on foot, what to say how to react. And most importantly, how not to get yourself killed. Sometimes, the sage advice works and said male walks away unscathed or with some hurt feelings and minor humiliation. Sometimes, the results are tragic and trigger happy police get away with murder.

Like George Zimmerman, who shot Trayvon Martin on a dark night in a gated community, Dunn is no officer of the law, he worked for a tech company. When black children can be killed for trivial matters – for having the audacity to be out on a cold night with a hoodie or playing loud music, as teenagers sometimes do – what then?

As a writer, we’re supposed to provide, at the very least, some thought provoking content and, at best, some solutions to the subjects we write about.

I have neither.

I’m not a parent, so I have no idea what to tell a child. No idea what I’d tell my own fictional children about this evolving world we live in when minor disputes turn deadly in an instant. Where watching out for the police isn’t enough, where you also have to watch out for your neighbors and strangers as well.

Other than the fact that prosecutors and police acted swiftly and jailed Dunn, there’s little saving grace for this story. As easily as one can say the teens should’ve turned down the music when asked, or not had it up loud as all, we can just as easily say Dunn could’ve endured the inconvenience of loud music for a few minutes.

Yes, authorities in this case acted quickly, which may prove a deterrent for future gun-wielding vigilantes in the future.

They shouldn’t have had to act at all.

“Heaven on earth, tell me what’s a black life worth?” – Tupac Shakur

In 1997, this was just another line in a posthumously released Tupac song. today, this was a mere line recited every time “I Wonder if Heaven Got a Ghetto” blared from the radio speakers. In 2012, it’s a question begging an answer — or rather, a different answer.

Without much of a rehash of history, we’ve witnessed heinous crimes committed against young black men that have gone unpunished. From 1955’s grizzly and savage murder of Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin to Jordan Davis, the worth of black life, sadly, hasn’t been much.

I’d like to tell you that there’s a viable solution that would keep young black men from killing young black men and keep others from wantonly killing young black men. However, the brutal legacy of this country says that just isn’t the case.

I’d like to tell you that if we could wave a magic wand and get rid of all the stereotypical depictions of us in the media as savage beasts and hardened criminals went away overnight, that others would stop seeing us as threats to be put down at the slightest sign of resistance.

I’d like to tell you that if every young black male simply pulled up his pants, put on clothes that fit and turned some of today’s god-awful hip hop music down that the world would see them as angelic figures worthy of the dignity and respect we afford most people.

I don’t have any answers. What I do know is that, collectively, we need to figure this out — lest we run through this cycle every few months.

What I’d like… is to not have to write this editorial again with a different set of names and faces.


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