Thursday, December 6, 2012

Comfortably Numb. Why I Have Little to Say About the Murder of Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn

Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry speaks truth to power. Bob Costas's intervention about gun violence puts all of the madness in perspective.

Another young black person was shot and killed by an unhinged white vigilante several weeks ago. I would like to be able to muster the emotions and energy to feel outraged by what happened. I am spent. I have no more to offer following the hunting and killing of Trayvon Martin.

I am not dismissing the crime which occurred in Florida where a white vigilante thug murderer shot and killed a black teenager who was guilty of no more than playing loud music. Part of being a teenager is a rite of passage wherein he or she acts like a self-absorbed jerk. This behavior ought not to be a death sentence.

There is a well-developed vocabulary to describe how black youth live in existential peril. Researchers, social workers, activists and scholars talk about "community disorganization" and the ghetto underclass, the violence of the drug trade, the perils of a "youthocracy" where communities are made to suffer a deficit of impulse control and where no proper role models exist, and of course the prison industrial complex and disparities in sentencing.

As potent as terms such as "niggerization" are, they often obscure the day-to-day realities and risks that come with being young and black in America.

Here, there is a more basic truth in cases such as Jordan Davis' shooting by 45 year old Michael Dunn: black people, and black youth in particular, are forever suspect, criminal, and subject to wanton violence until they prove otherwise. Black youth are considered adults for purposes of imprisonment and violence.

In addition, the American collective conscious is fixated on the dangers posed by black people--and black men in particular. We are "black beast rapists." We are "thugs." We are "super predators." These stereotypes persist both despite and regardless of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Unfortunately, there are young black people who internalize the White Gaze and see themselves through the eyes of Whiteness and white racism. These negative values are internalized; the wages of such choices are death and diminished life outcomes.

The perverseness of the logic which justified Michael Dunn's shooting of Jordan Davis is one that considers the black body as a perpetual threat.

As such, lethal violence is required to control black people because somehow we exist on the fringes of civilization, capable of breaking its chains, boundaries, rules, and norms, spontaneously and without cause at any time.

Black men must also have superpowers because as I discussed in regards to the hunting and murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, hoodies become cloaks of doom and nefarious power when worn by us, and harmless objects in our hands are magically transformed into lethal weapons. Black people must have a mysterious glamour that we can use to confuse the perception of those around us like witches or warlocks. It would seem that we do not have the power to deactivate such abilities. They are curses not blessings.

However, I am at an impasse in regards to how the mass media and "black leaders" decide whose death is worthy of attention and which others are simply statistics on the evening news. Jordan Davis's death, like Trayvon Martin's, resonates because it is a reminder of how in America the historical reality has long been that any given white man can decide to kill a person of color in civil society with little if any consequence.

Yet, there are many dozens of young black people killed every week in this country. Some are knuckleheads. Many are innocents. Most are killed by other young black people. It would seem that the latter have also learned the lesson of Zimmerman and Dunn: black life is cheap.

I have a thought exercise and counter-factual that I would like to propose. What would happen if all Americans took the lives of all young people in this country as a cause of common concern? Are not all lives valuable? What is stopping us from a having a national conversation about preserving all life, of young folks especially, on either side of the colorline?

Why are we unable to discuss the murder epidemic among our First Nations brothers and sisters, rural whites, Latinos, and young black people in one conversation? And then to understand violence as a symptom of a national sickness that all citizens should be invested in correcting?

Would the public's mentality about violence change if the truth were more readily known, that the crime statistics dramatically under-count rates of violence and murder, and do not allow for how innovations in trauma surgery within a country which has been at war (on and off, for almost 70 years) dramatically improved survival rates from gunshot and other types of injuries?

As Stalin said, one death is a tragedy and a million are a statistic. The truism still stands, especially in an era of 24 news which is looking for an easy (and salable) storyline to follow.

I am a secular humanist. Jordan Davis's murder matters because the sanctity of all life and human dignity is important in the Good Society. All crime and murder is a harm to our collective humanity.

In these moments,  I just worry that all decent, concerned, and reasonable people are sacrificing an opportunity for shared alliances and concern across lines of class and race by adhering to a narrative which focuses on the race of the victim, as opposed to common issues of human rights and safety in our shared personhood.

Are my worries and concerns misplaced?


CNu said...

Are not all lives valuable? What is stopping us from a having a national conversation about preserving all life, of young folks especially, on either side of the colorline?

Disparity of parental investment. If you don't value your own child enough to carefully tutor, train, protect, guide, etc..., on what deranged tangent of the selfish gene does it become someone else's survival/fitness burden to do so?

Bruto Alto said...


As a teacher you know what most black kids are up against. The kids that try to overcome piss poor parents have to work hard just to break even. See survial may mean stealing to just to eat. Now here's the real question? If your kid was in the same car and got shot would you believe he was one of the "bad" black kids.

chaunceydevega said...

@Cnu. That is the paradox no. on one hand it is in our communal self-interest--and selfish interest--to look out for those we live nearby, socialize with, go to school and work with etc. But, we have many who have unreasonable expectations that we should raise up someone else's poor decision making result of a child or a young adult who imperils all the good folks.

That is one the fissures in the discussions here and elsewhere where too many want to exaggerate these bonds of loyalty and kinship. For example, shedding tears for highwaymen troglodytes when they are a threat to everyone. Worrying about ignt's etc.

But, there is a need for proper community socialization because it is in our shared interest. How to find a balance?

nomad said...

"shared interest?" "balance?"
This ought to be good...

chaunceydevega said...

@Nomad. I vs we. Classic conundrum.

CNu said...

BA, it's my all day everyday job to ensure that he knows better than to EVER be in that SUV, NEVER have that testosterone-fueled exchange with either a known or unknown grown teen or man - IOW - don't start none won't be none is a fundamental way of life.

Corollary, if some starts, leave the antagonist for dead in less than 20 seconds - because your own life and safety come first.

CNu said...

Shared interest/balance are really very simple once you get past imaginary identities and bonds and keep it 100%.

Your friends and kin reduce to those with whom you engage in specific tangible and measurable endeavors, period. Everybody else is merely a correspondent or casual conversational acquaintence.

Deviate from this baseline at your own peril...,

nomad said...

And water is wet.

CNu said...

lol, and emotional negroes get all bent out of shape about somebody else's kilt young troglodyte they've never known and will never know...,

makheru bradley said...

When it comes to protecting one’s children in this society there are no guarantees. The violence is too unpredictable.

Brotha Wolf said...

Unless the mainstream truly recognizes that the lives of black people or POC are just as valuable as anyone else's, more shit like this will continue unabated. The fact that they hardly ever mutter a word about this in politics or the media speaks volumes alone. Black life is regarded as worthless and dispensable. That is why intra-racial black violence continues at such a high rate.

Society considers black people as "the problem" and blacks killing each other is correcting the problem itself. That's why most white killers of black people usually don't get harsh sentences. On the other hand, black killers of whites are most likely going to be condemned to death.

It's saddening on many levels.

Razor said...

It can be, and often is, depending on where you live, " a jungle out there ". Jungle meaning that trouble seems to be just hanging around, omnipresent, there without a specific warning or invitation or, or never far if you feel like trouble looking for a happening. That is where most poor, lower and lower middle income black folk live life. If you have been fortunate you only visit the jungle or drive through. Of course there are the jungle patrols that we all are subject to that tooo can be dangerous depending on your getting stopped ettiquette.

The first law of the jungle is to protect yourself and your own first and foremost. With your children you must be clear and strict in expected and instructed modes of behaviour. To expect compliance in that regard you must have somehow earned the respect of your child. Generally, you must be respected older male to give orders to a young black male and they are followed. Usually those orders would have been preceeded by imperical examples of the results of errant behavior.

If there is no strong man like that around, then others, including themselves, will step in where a man is not and a woman cannot adequately even if they are so inclined Still, if you live in the wrong places then anything can still happen to you just based on the geography.

But even if things are fine with you and yours you must learn to care about others' children any how. That's what real community is about.

CNu said...

Children are as valuable as the parental and caring adult investment in them and it's not even money, it's time and attention. Think Kelvin Doe.

If your own parent/kith/kin don't invest any time and attention in you beyond what was involved in making that sweaty, nasty screw face at the moment of your conception?

Absent this post-coital investment...,

nomad said...

That's why it is so very important to choose the right parents. I think that's where a lot of young people go wrong.

CNu said...

exactly how many of these underattended to foeti have you adopted nomad?

yeah.., that's what I thought.

nomad said...

Again, non sequiturs. I think the most relevant thing you've ever said is "water is wet". I'm just pointing out the neither here nor thereness of your premise. "All we have to do is get rid of dysfunctional families and our problems be solved." Well, d'uh.

CNu said...

Stop lying.

Your whole attitude and approach is an infantile reality evasion. That's why you were so steadfast in your belief in flying saucers and little green men Nomad.

When confronted with the facts of the situation, you are incapable of an honest and sincere response.

Your inability to engage the problem space clearly and responsibly is a big part of the problem.

Though you have no intention and no track record of personally adopting and assuming responsibility for the by-products of someone else's reckless and feckless rutting, you "feel" perfectly at ease shunting off the unintended consequences of that irresponsible and inexcusable foolishness and fuckery onto someone else.

Your premise is dishonest, cowardly, and is the crux of why the problem has grown to such insufferable proportions.

nomad said...

There you go again. Smoke screening. Deflecting. When the vacuity of your logic is revealed. Nice little formula. "My position is correct, nomad, cause you are an idiot." Works evry time. What, no jiggaboo spin this time? I believe in little green men but your solution to the problem of black youth is a time machine? Let's have something a little more pragmatic. And, by that I don't mean a hellfire missile.

CNu said...

lol, you just don't like the taste of your own tiresome rhetorical medicine, particularly when it's administered in my extra tart and bitter formulation!

We're all ears Nomad.

The floor is yours, lead us all by the applied example of your own personal captain-save-a-foetus program of reclaiming an renovating the unintended and underattended consequence of somebody else's foolishness and fuckery.

Otherwise, hang it up.

nomad said...

Why should I subscribe to your narrative? I leave it to you assidiously follow the convolutions of your own mental constructs.Why should I bother with straw men? Stamp your terrible feet all you want. It won't make your premise any less vacuous.

CNu said...


your capacity for reality evasion is priceless Nomad.

Thanks for the light morning diversion.

The Sanity Inspector said...

Would the public's mentality about violence change if the truth were more readily known, that the crime statistics dramatically under-count rates of violence and murder...

Now that's odd; I'll have to go read that article. Seems to me that murder would be the ideal crime to keep statistics on, since it is almost always reported to police, far more than other crimes.

chaunceydevega said...

@Sanity. I suggest you do go and read it. There are serious issues with how crime stats are gathered in this country.