17-year-old Jordan Davis died of racism.
Michael David Dunn, a middle-aged white man, made a comment to a group of four black teenagers that their music was too loud. They began to argue and Dunn fired at the black teenagers’ SUV between eight and nine times. Two shots hit and killed Jordan Davis. Afterwards, Dunn fled; he was arrested and has plead not guilty.
Although Dunn will be making a Stand Your Ground defense, it’s likely to be difficult for him to prove, because even our racist-ass justice system is (one hopes) fairly clear on unarmed teenagers playing their music very loudly not being a form of attack. Nevertheless, that this murder happened at all is pretty freaking racist, ageist, and sexist. Groups of black teenagers listening to music loudly? Well, they’re a gang, they’re thugs, they’re a threat, they’re something any right-thinking middle-aged white person ought to be afraid of. For far too many people, it’s reasonable to believe that a group of black teenagers is liable to attack you– never mind that teenage black guys hang out listening to loud music in thousands of neighborhoods across the country every night, and the vast majority of them never do anything worse than irritate the neighbors’ eardrums.
And sometimes stereotypes like that lead to death.
I do believe that Dunn legitimately felt threatened by black teenage guys arguing with him. Nevertheless, the fact that this is threatening is something that white people need to question. Why do we assume that black men are violent beasts ready to attack at any moment? Why is the same behavior normal on the part of white adults and an act of aggression on the part of black teenagers? Why is the default assumption that a young black man is going to attack or even murder us? Why are we so afraid?
Until we can answer these questions, more boys like Davis will die. And that is not something I want on my conscience.
Photo credit– armin_vogel/Flickr. A single candle of mourning.