In Part I of Nicole Franklin’s series on race and forgiveness, she examines Lucia McBath’s request for prayers for Michael Dunn, the man who murdered her 17 year old son, Jordan Davis.
On Saturday, February 15, 47-year-old software developer Michael David Dunn was convicted on four of five counts—three for attempted second-degree murder–in a widely watched Florida court case. The first count was declared a mistrial. The murder of 17-year-old Jordan Davis hung a jury. Davis, a high school student described by his parents as “fun-loving, humorous” and “named for the river Jordan,” was parked with three friends in an SUV at a Jacksonville, FL gas station. They were there to buy gum and cigarettes. Dunn and his fiancée stopped to get wine and chips. This would continue a night out where he had been drinking earlier at his son’s wedding reception. He was now parked in the same gas station where the teens were playing music that was allegedly too loud. After a heated verbal exchange, Dunn, a Caucasian man, fired multiple bullets into the teens’ vehicle, fatally shooting Davis, a young Black teen.
Davis’ parents were in the courtroom to personally witness the jury’s indecisiveness as to whether their son deserved to die in Dunn’s case of self-defense. Many around the world expressed their anger as the Stand Your Ground law seemed to once again bring forth the image of a White man with a gun to render the life of a teenaged Black boy utterly disposable.
Our nation’s shame of racism was once again thrust into the media spotlight. Race continued to dominate the Dunn trial of public opinion. And by this incident taking place in Florida, echoes of Trayvon Martin and more recently Black defendants sentenced for a few too many warning shots in the air are making 2014 the year where we as Florida trial-watchers have grown weary. Thus came a resounding cry of disbelief when the parents of Jordan Davis first addressed the public. His mother’s words took everyone by surprise.
Davis’ mother Lucia McBath: “It’s been a long, long road. Very happy to have a little bit of closure. It’s…it’s sad for Mr. Dunn that he will live the rest of his life in that sense of torment. And I will pray for him. And I’ve asked my family to pray for him….We will continue to stand and we will continue to wait for justice for Jordan.”
“Black people are very forgiving, and it’s good to be forgiving but there’s a thin line between forgiving people and letting them walk over you.”
“Did she say pray 4 him, what is it with African American and this ironic praying to a false white man made deity, and her son was calculatedly murdered by a white racist monster. I dont get it at all.
“IM TIRED OF BLK WOMEN AND THAT PRAY FOR HIM BULLSHIT.. THIS MAN KILLED UR SON IN COLD BLOOD…”
People are fed up…it’s far too often, lives are being taken,” says Fr. Maurice Nutt, a Redemptorist priest based in New Orleans, LA. As clergy, Nutt is often called upon to explain why watching victims respond with faith instead of anger leaves most of us baffled. It also may leave some of us in awe. Nutt explains, “Yes, as African Americans we are a very forgiving people. But I don’t think retribution should be found in violence. I think forgiveness happens with dialogue and understanding. The root of racism is ignorance.” He says along with faith, there really should be a call to repeal the Stand Your Ground law. Period. Nutt says he feels the same as others about the law: “It means you can kill black folks and get away with it.”
One person who is now living with the result of the law’s vengeance is Jordan’s father, Ronald Davis. Unlike Jordan’s mother, Mr. Davis has expressed on a number of occasions that he is unwilling and unable to forgive due to his feeling that Dunn lacks remorse. But he has mentioned in interviews a plan to visit his son’s killer.
It seems Stand Your Ground and young Black males have a familiar persecuted vs. persecutor ring to it. And before cries of racism that may or not be present suggest persecuted and persecutor as having a more mythical quality in this day and time, a spiritual leader such as the Dalai Lama is here to remind us that acts of persecution are very much the present case.
In the book The Wisdom of Forgiveness: Intimate Conversations and Journeys co-written by the Dalai Lama and Victor Chan the spiritual leader talks about one instance of forgiveness through the story of Lopon-la, a Lhasa monk who was imprisoned by Chinese. He says of Lopon-la: “He stayed there eighteen years ….. He told me the Chinese forced him to denounce his religion. They tortured him many times in prison. I asked him whether he was ever afraid. Lopon-la then told me: ‘Yes, there was one thing I was afraid of. I was afraid I may lose compassion for the Chinese.’”
Lucia McBath has admitted on record that she feels anger towards Dunn. Her strength comes at a time when this nation has to prepare for the scheduled May 2014 retrial of Michael Dunn on the count of murder. Soon the opportunity will present itself again for the media to skillfully escalate the racial tension this nation feels through the discussion of this case. According to Nutt,“America itself has to deal with uncomfortable soul searching. We always have this problem with Black youth.” But he is also assured by McBath’s dignity and grace: “It’s unnatural for a mother or father to bury their son. Psychologically and spiritually you need a balance, something to believe. Remorse only makes you sick. Trayvon and Jordan are free—with the Lord. Why should their parents be locked up in prison cells of hatred and pain?”