Within the African American cultural continuum there is an oft spoken saying that, viagra “You have to be twice as “good” to be even.” The twice as “good” to which the saying refers is as compared to whites. This is the basic knowledge within the black community, knowledge that is passed on as a means for both survival and success. Whether it is spoken precisely in those specific words or not, it is “understood” that the standards by which assessments are made are not the same in the land of the free and home of the brave for people of color, specifically for black people, as those standards that are applied to people of the dominant culture.
This past week, after two trials, one with a hung jury on the most serious count of murder and more than two years gone by, Michael Dunn was finally convicted of the shooting death of Jordan Davis, a black teenager who was shot in the back seat of a vehicle that was parked at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida on November 23rd, 2012. Michael Dunn, a white man, approached the vehicle in which seventeen year- old Jordan Davis and three of his friends were riding demanding that they turn down the volume of their music; music that Dunn referred to as “thug music.” When the young men refused, “words” were exchanged and Dunn went back to his vehicle retrieved a gun and fired multiple times into the vehicle killing Jordan Davis who was seated in the back seat. Dunn then left the scene, returned to his hotel room and ordered a pizza, never calling the police. One day shy of what would have been the 19th birthday of Jordan Davis, a Florida jury was dead-locked on the charge of murder, and only found Dunn guilty of 2nd degree “attempted” murder charges in the case of the three other teens who were present in the vehicle at the time of Jordan’s death.
Finally there was some justice doled out in the murder of Jordan Davis, yes. But the truth is it took far too long and too many trials in order for that justice to be served. The shenanigans going on in Ferguson, Missouri right now as the City Prosecutor, the State Attorney General, and the Governor along with countless government officials shirk their duty and pass off to a grand jury (that convenes once a week) the responsibility to bring charges against or to refuse to indict Darren Wilson, the officer who gunned down unarmed teenager Michael Brown this past August, are appalling. In 1999, an unarmed black man, Amadou Diallo, was gunned down by four NYC police officers. Diallo was massacred just outside his apartment when the officers fired over 44 shots into his body. Unbelievably, the officers were acquitted on all charges. The history of “lawful” violence against black and brown bodies in America is well documented. The inability to bring anyone to justice or to assign any responsibility to anyone for those murders or assaults is also well documented. For the African American community the conviction of Michael Dunn, however justified, is surprisingly uplifting. It reinvigorates our hope in the midst of hopelessness; not hopelessness in our fortitude, resiliency or resolve, but rather hope in the “system of justice” and equality for all people. If our hope has any veracity at all, why does there still have to be twice as much evidence in order to convict a white person, especially a law enforcement officer for the murder of a black male?
Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D.
Founder and Artistic Director
The Conciliation Project and
Virginia Commonwealth University
Up Next Week: Redeem the TIME….’cuz you never know.