Edmund Adjapong states, “I am a Black, male, graduate student who attends an Ivy League university, who identifies with the Hip-Hop generation.” However the verdict in the Michael Dunn case tells him that society continues to view him as a problem.
When I heard the verdict of the Michael Dunn trial my heart felt heavy, because once again, another Black male was viewed as a problem. Michael Dunn was found guilty on four of five charges, which included three attempted murder charges, but was not convicted on the first-degree murder charge that was directly connected to the unfair death of Jordan Davis. Although Michael Dunn will more than likely spend the rest of his life behind bars, the jury failing to convict Michael Dunn of the murder of Jordan Davis is a threat all men of color. It sends the message that it’s acceptable to murder a young Black man. You have the right to kill without question as long as you feel threatened.
Michael Dunn’s perspective represents that of mainstream America’s. Dunn claimed that he felt threatened by a group of Black boys who were innocently listening to Hip-Hop music, or “thug music” as Dunn described. Many Americans would have claimed to feel threatened if placed in the same exact situation for a number of reasons. They often feed into the negative media portrayal of Black youth, they haven’t have much experience interacting with Black youth, but most importantly, they have not adequately educated themselves on the differences of others and therefore do not understand those differences. Because Michael Dunn was not found guilty of the first-degree murder, it is evident America believes it is acceptable to feel threatened around Black people, in this case Black people who follow Hip-Hop culture, and I am not okay with that. When I drive, I listen to the same type of music (Hip-Hop music) that Jordan Davis and his friends were listening to, and sometimes at obnoxious volumes, but does that mean that I am dangerous or a threat? I am a Black, male, graduate student who attends an Ivy League university, who identifies with the Hip-Hop generation.
It is problematic that America continues to view young men of color as threatening individuals and criminals. As an Africana Studies minor, I studied W.E.B DuBois’ collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk. He posed the question: How does it feel to be a problem? Although Dubois posed this question over one hundred years ago, it continues to remain relevant today. How does it feel to be perceived as a violent individual because of the color of your skin? In police interviews, Michael Dunn stated that he saw a gun or a stick pointed at him from the red Dodge Durango. This caused him to reach for his loaded gun and shoot the car 10 times. If Jordan Davis and his friends weren’t viewed as “problems,” Davis will still be alive today.
Every man of color, including myself, has experienced what it feels like to be a “problem” at some point in his life. I attended a college in northern New York in a predominantly White city that lacked racial diversity. Every time I visited to the mall I noticed that I would receive strange stares from many eyes. Some of those seemed to be looks of fear and others, looks of confusion. I realized that people looked at me differently because of the color of my skin and immediately referenced their perception of Black males. Eventually, I got tired of the looks that I received and began walking around the mall with a huge smile on my face to appear less threatening. I had to consciously change my demeanor to justify that I was not violent and to show others that I am a harmless individual who deserves to be viewed as such.
I am Jordan Davis, and so is every man of color who lives in the United States. America’s history has repeatedly and continues to show us that the lives of people of color, especially young men of color, have little to no value. The fact that Michael Dunn was not convicted of the murder of Jordan Davis reinforces this idea. As a Black male, it tells me that society continues to view me as a problem, and that racism continues to exist in America. The only reasonable solution to address the issue is for Americans to be educated on the differences of others, especially black males, to have a more enlightened perspective of others.