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More than the verdict given in the Michael Dunn case, also called the ‘loud music trial,’ where jurors couldn’t convict on the most serious count, murder one, but could come back with guilty “on the three he missed,” quoting outraged responders, after he (Dunn) said he shot the teen following a confrontation over music volume coming from his SUV, then was threatened and thought he saw a gun. More than echoes of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, more than circular debates on stand your ground, self-defense, threats of force, what your rights are to protect your person, your family and your property, especially in the wake of increasingly ineffective policing. When you have a lawyer defending the shooter of a, turned out to be unarmed, teenager stand in front of press post a hung jury on the most significant count, again murder one, related to a dead young man and say “this isn’t a black or white issue, it’s a thug subculture, you start to understand why every case like this is a “race case,” every case like this makes tensions run high. Because more than conversations falling on deaf ears centered around are we supporting legislation, laws, legal proceedings, and yes, jury verdicts against black people, violating their civil rights, their right to due process by our automatic instinct to identify with the white person, is the actual perpetuation of ‘the black male body’ as something to fear, before that person has ever done or said a thing to you. The Nation writer, Mychal Denzel Smith, eloquently wrote about just that in a piece detailing a run in with a racist at a bar, his choice not to get violent while being assumed a drug dealer vs. what his choice would have been at 19, being given the mindset he wasn’t supposed to live to 18 and 21 wasn’t an option, asking am I still a thug now? Words from a man in the prime of his life, having by all societies standards, made it, despite growing up feeling as he obviously did, left feeling even today he has nothing; because, his body is something to fear no matter what he does with it, no matter what positive choices he makes, what he contributes to the world. Relating to the Dunn verdict, in that it is this mentality that foreshadows to the tragic death of  black youth; beyond even that, he (Dunn) is yet another example of one more disturbing trend,  how commonplace it is becoming for older white males, even senior citizens to settle minor disputes with guns. 

Jordan Davis, yes that’s the latest victim’s name, the latest victim according to headlines, political cartoons and sadly reality, of hurt someone’s feelings, made them feel disrespected, wore the “wrong” type of clothing, wore a hoodie, said the wrong thing, road rage, looked like might have a gun, played music too loud, looked like a thug, sagged my pants, liked rap music, reached into pocket, looked a bit threatening. In other words old, white, male fear, predicated on delusions garnered from hip hop, rap videos, television, movies circa the 80’s and 90’s that are the extent of their cultural education when it comes to African American teens, young men; raising the question, who’s watching too many of these things, being unduly influenced by it, black youth or middle aged, paranoid white people? Leading to those same youth gunned down not in the midst of a drug deal, participation in gang activity, not in the commission of a robbery, home invasion or break in, attempt to intimidate an entire neighborhood or single persons in it, but rather as they simply went about minding their own business, as they did mundane activities any one of us might engage in on a daily basis. The latest victim of I am paranoid, I don’t like the direction this country is going in, don’t like the young people, predictably minority young people who are black or brown, African American, Hispanic or Latino, their role models, their aspirations, lack thereof; still, I’m going to vent my frustrations not with activism, voting, speaking out, even running for local office. Instead I’m going to seek confrontation, I’m going to stand up to, not the drug dealers looking to infiltrate my neighborhood, not the true thugs harassing, beating up small children, families and ordinary citizens who want no part of their lifestyle, child predators, pimps only after one thing; rather I’m going to seek out my pet peeves people whom I perceive as thugs, gangsters, drug dealers, criminal, dangerous based on an arbitrary calculus truly known only to me. Based on their baggy clothes, sagging pants, pricy sneakers, hoodie, doo rag, stocking cap, the rock or rap music “blaring” from their vehicle, the notion they look like they don’t belong in my neighborhood. Jordan Davis is the unnecessarily recent victim of I was in fear for my life and the only thing I could think to do was pull out my gun, the only thing I could think of was to fire off enough rounds to daze, slow down an elephant; never mind scare, wound, stop a human being. I was in fear of my life and the only thing I could think of was to use my gun to kill someone else. Here is the defining issue with what ultimately happened to Jordan Davis, what almost befell is other 3 friends, common sense can’t compute, common sense doesn’t add up, not that the needless loss of life should ever make sense. Before we even get to the inconsistencies, idiosyncrasies in Dunn’s statements to police, his testimony on the stand, but, if you have a genuine concern about “people like that” whether it’s black teens, Mexican teens, skin heads, individuals who display a certain demeanor, listen to “thug music,” when you ask them to turn it down and they refuse, you get in your car and drive away. Hell you don’t even approach their car; you go into the store, find your fiancé/girlfriend, say come on honey leave it we’ll go somewhere else, telling her about the ear drum vibrating music on the way out. Maybe you go back to your car, dial the police to report a noise complaint, possible disturbance, take refuge in the store while your lady finishes shopping; a good idea since surveillance tapes clearly caught words exchanged between Dunn’s girlfriend and the clerk, the distinctive pop, pop, pop, indicating gun shots, none of the offending music.        

If you’re in fear for your life, you go back to your car; drive away, circle round and wait for your girlfriend, you run inside the store telling the clerk about the car full of young, menacing men and a potential gun. You don’t go to your glove box, pull out your fire arm, fire nearly a dozen shots into an opposing vehicle, a majority of which as they pulled away, all while huddled behind the door reminiscent of too many movie shoot outs; then say absolutely nothing to that same girlfriend as she exits the store. You say be careful I think the people in that care have a gun, I had to shoot they had a shotgun; you don’t simply return to your hotel, order pizza, walk your dog pretending nothing happened, aware the news broadcast said someone died in an incident sounding an awful lot like the one you just got into tonight. Now any semi-expert can invoke trauma as an explanation for Dunn’s lack of response, failure to call the police, weave a plausible excuse for going about his routine as if it didn’t happen, provide evidence he was using a psychological defense mechanism to cope with what he had done, yet a majority of truly traumatized people are seen at crime scenes unresponsive to simple questions, wandering dazed, looking totally lost, processing a classic eye bulge described as deer in headlights. No matter how functional on the outside when asked to recount the incident they get distant looks, become agitated, frightened, cry, vs. Michael Dunn whose story initially kept changing, who also repeated he knew the law, knew he had the right to defend himself. However one tries to explain Dunn’s behavior after the fact, innocent persons who take life, took a life because they had to, not because they wanted to, because they were mad, filled with rage, looking for revenge, fed up to here, with insert social behavior, job status, pet irritation here, subsequently don’t get on the stand crying describing attributes life with their puppy, not a tear, a look of regret, seeing photos of the teenage boy you shot. Who sounds so rehearsed in his telling, his feelings that night and why he had to snuff out a life, amateur analysts see though you; forget professionals. Individuals who understand the gravity of what they’ve done, what they were forced to do firstly feel remorse, regret, wish/believe there was something they could have/should have done differently, whether there really was or not, wish there had been a different outcome. Never do they write smugly racist letters from prison, find themselves recorded on jailhouse tapes blatantly painting themselves as the victim, while they live, and because of a minor altercation, a young person is dead, more apt to write apology letters to the victim’s family; Mr. Dunn couldn’t even muster that. Key to naming this murder, he doesn’t feel remorse, doesn’t feel regret for anything other than perhaps being caught, people not buying his “I had to” excuse, doesn’t see fit to apologize to the family, doesn’t appear to see the victim, his victim as a person, more a distasteful thing he was able to get rid of, seeing it like some distorted civic duty. That’s what makes this the extermination of Jordan Davis, not the self-defense of Michael Dunn.  

When people first heard movie theater, shooting, happening in Florida most portably pictured another crazed mass gunman, another person with a mental health history missed by family and friends, not a retired police captain mad a movie goer half his age wouldn’t stop texting. Doubtlessly some thought it was a joke; once realizing it was real, thinking he had to know this person, had to have some prior beef with him. No one would just up and shoot someone over texting, at least not anyone over the age of 25 and otherwise seemingly sane; except that’s exactly what happened. Again worse than a toddler who will now grow up without a father, a wife left to raise their child alone, worse than why, 43 year old Chad Olson annoyed someone else using his smartphone, for which he was shot after frustratedly throwing popcorn, gesticulating while speaking with the grouchy old man who was overly upset due to his texting and the popcorn went flying, is listening to Curtis Reeves Jr.’s justification for his actions. Claiming he was in fear for his life, shot only after being hit with an unknown object, theater surveillance proving the only thing Reeves was hit with was a paper bag of popcorn; worse than the utter ridiculousness labeled cause for putting bullets into a man “armed” with a phone, are the damning, damaging statements by police and witnesses, a separate couple also at the theater, also having an aggressive run-in with Reeves, topic texting/using smartphone in an “inappropriate” place. The man’s own wife reportedly saying, just after it happened, how Olson used his phone, refused to stop using his phone, was not reason to shoot someone; Reeves’ response, according to a cop on the scene, to turn toward her, waging his finger in her face, telling her to shut her f*ing mouth and not say another word. He was in fear of his life in a darkened move theater, seriously, a place where he could easily get up and leave, had already left his seat once to seek out, complain to a manager. He was in fear for his life really, in a movie theater, where yes it’s dark, but there are other patrons, you can scream for help, say hey he just hit me with something, hey man never mind I don’t want a fight; his choice, his instinct was to pull out a gun and fire shots point blank into a man’s chest??? Keeping in mind, looking at his mug shot, he’s well built, muscular, a picture of what Arnold Schwarzenegger can look forward to 20 years from now; too being a retired police officer, regardless of rank, should have meant he had the training not afforded a majority of ordinary people to  deescalate conflict   Worse than the amalgamation of trivialities culminating in the death of an upstanding human being on a couple’s rare night out with his wife away from their young child, is listening to the shooter’s daughter testify at a bail hearing about failing health, an inability to work carpentry tools anymore, hope his arthritic hands would get better, hope never coming to pass; seems like exactly the type of person you wouldn’t want having a gun at home, owning a hunting rifle occasionally in use, but a conceal and carry permit? We society, we the state of Florida gave the man sitting in court, appearing fragile, a license to not just carry a gun, but carry it on his person? Perhaps the ultimate betrayal is we are talking about a retired policeman, who should beyond know better, who instead of using his training, his wisdom, age is supposed to have given him, he became another hot head with a gun. 

Much hay has been made by saddened Americans who do mourn the loss of young life in their own way, saying had Jordan Davis, like Trayvon Martin before him, learned to respect his elders and keep his hands to himself, he would still be alive today, or at least not deceased in the way we know he came to be. Unfortunately there is too much truth in that statement; yes, if these young men had allowed themselves to be harassed by adults 2-3 times their age, had allowed themselves to be accosted by do-gooder neighborhood watch cheap imitators who can’t even follow directions of 911 dispatch, because they were walking back to their dad’s house from a store, slightly lost due to being new here, they would still be alive, still be breathing, but minus the dignity we all should enjoy, the freedoms we are allotted being born, thriving in the United States of America. Then there’s the bigger picture; what was Sean Bell, the groom shot outside his bachelor party, not supposed get into, drive an SUV because he might be mistaken for a drug dealer, because the police couldn’t do their homework before firing 50 shots? What was Jonathan Farrell supposed to do, never, ever get into a car accident, not look for help while being disoriented? We all understand the home owner’s reaction, woman, alone, wee hours of the morning with a hulking man banging on her door; of course she called the cops. Yet cops arriving on the scene were equally supposed to ascertain what was going on, they were supposed to notice his disorientation indicating he was likely drunk, high, in this instance, injured, possibly haul him off to the local drunk tank with a trespassing charge, or listen, discovering the car wreck and get him help, not open fire resulting in his death. Next are more localized incidents ceasing to gain national attention, potentially more absurd than ones already listed, another car accident, car broke down looking for help story involving a girl, this time around, who rang the doorbell, somehow shot in the back of the head by a “frightened” homeowner, 17 year old ROTC student shot when the video game controller he held was mistaken for a gun; forget Nintendo Wii controllers are usually white, guns silver, or the more common, black. 13 year old shot by neighbor while taking out trash after being accused of taking his shotguns; both allegations he and his mother denied, a denial that turned fatal. People nationwide did hear about the officer who shot into a minivan occupied by several children stemming from a traffic stop gone wrong; mother fleeing the scene after officers asked her to step out of the car, fleeing again when officers broke out her car’s back windows where her children were seated. Over and over in these cases we find out, not that the victims were actually drug dealers, punks, thieves, had routine run-ins with the law, were on their way to being career criminals; it’s what we find out regarding the shooters pasts leaving us shocked and applauded. Michael Dunn’s neighbor spoke to numerous media outlets about the latter’s abusive treatment of ex-wives, how calm he was if you agreed with him, explosive if you didn’t. Jailhouse letters and phone calls seeming to back up the neighbor’s statements, adding the dimension of racism to the mix in his very own words.  George Zimmerman had an obvious prejudice, an obvious bias towards people he viewed as punks, possessed a history of nuisance calls to police as well as his own arrest record pre and post acquittal, possible domestic violence and again waving a gun around.

This is the white male thug culture beginning around slavery, evolving pre civil rights, treating black people, minorities as subhuman, as garbage, and that being normal acceptable, ok behavior. Expanding today to whoever doesn’t share your same culture, lifestyle; think current treatment of gay people white or black, Hispanic or other minority. Tied to fences, harassed in the streets, called names, told they are eternally damned, hated by god, denied service from bed and breakfasts, Christian wedding cake makers, Christian rental property owners; again actions deemed socially acceptable for too long in America’s history, still permissible in some circles, particularly political conservatives and religious evangelicals. Going one step further, middle aged, male superiority has ballooned to any fellow citizen, fellow human being not sharing their  moral compass on neutral activities, especially when they are anything other than white, if they are any older than their “assailant.” Concepts ingrained in children and adults alike thanks to Bible belt preachers’ application of Judeo Christian values; commenters on multiple known stories alluded to it. You owe me respect as an elder, as an adult, if you don’t give it to me; I’ll take it. The hidden why behind the shooting death of Chad Olson; true we have yet to see a trial, a verdict is to come, but it’s the commonplace justification that has all our heads turning.  I think that “rap crap,” “thug music” is the root of all ills, let me eliminate it; get in my way you are not human, why Jordan Davis is no longer alive, because he played his music too loud and didn’t automatically snap to when an older white person said do something. Here is what MSNBC is talking about saying stand your ground in Florida, 25 additional states with stand your ground laws empowers people to bully, harass, shoot first think later, shoot first problem solve later, exponentially overreact, explode firing bullets when they feel “disrespected”; ironically behaviors described as belonging to gang bangers, drug dealers, teen punks. It is contrastingly right now, present day middle aged, white, males inflated sense of self importance, self-entitlement leading to these tragedies backed up by a social structure, a court system sending the message oh we understand; judges, lawyers, defense attorneys, jurors, the public at large. Whether it’s what crimes, committed by whom they’ve seen come before their benches, been required to defend, called upon to prosecute, investigate, what they’ve been a victim of, all around repeatedly it’s we understand statistics on black crime, minority violence, perceived as aimed at white people, we understand what it’s like to walk down the street and wonder if the guy sagging his pants, reaching into his pocket has a gun, is a criminal, we understand what it’s like to protect your property, your person, your community from lawless, crazed youth spoiling for a fight. This too is why Florida prosecutors went for the legal jugular, murder one, with Zimmerman, Dunn, second degree murder with Reeves, to resounding criticism, why Dunn will be retried on the capital charge, because George Zimmerman would not have acted the way he did, followed Trayvon Martin around, acted as aggressively as he did without a gun, and in his mind, the law to back him up. Michael Dunn would not have been as confrontational as he was, might not have even approached the car, absent his fire arm in the glove box, the knowledge he had the “legal right” to use it incurring few consequences. Because the gang bangers, drug dealers, exorbitant amounts of rape, murder, violence, robberies and teen punks aren’t in, terrorizing suburbia, because there was no real threat in that movie theater, there was no real threat in that gas station parking lot; both shooting parties had ample chance to walk away and it is long past time a message was sent loud and clear: this is not what stand your ground is for, settling your disputes by killing people you don’t like, don’t agree with, can’t get along with. Hints the eventual disciplinary action, firing and prosecution in situations like those of Sean Bell, the minivan mother, because police will stop firing indiscriminately if they are made to comprehend they represent the law, yet do not individually make it, are not above it. Police will stop brutality raining down on persons like the mom pulled over for a traffic stop, if they are no longer permitted to see these, non-whites as other, separate from themselves, not just in terms of the uniform, authority but as in what classifies, constitutes a human being, are prevented from thinking black = thug, gang banger, drug dealer, Latino, Mexican, Hispanic, mess of kids = probably an illegal immigrant, on welfare, no speak English.

And the kids who are thugs, the kids who are reaching for the gangster life, are reaching for a world of dealing drugs, committing felonies, doing drive byes are doing so, as if everything presented weren’t enough to push someone to it, always being told your culture, your identity, your values, hopes, dreams, aspirations are inferior, immoral, most of all unimportant. Choices are limited when your ethnicity, the color of your skin, perceptions about your clothing style, your address, your neighborhood, your school, your age, your demeanor entitles others to harass, accost, demean and degrade you. Youth turning to the “thug culture” are seeking out the basic respect they should get as human beings denied them due to the laundry list of factors above, and by the time they join a gang, become a dealer, they cease to care where they get it. More kids who are looking toward that “thug” goal are looking so hard not just because social pressure is so strong, peer pressure is an indomitable force in their lives, because they have been indoctrinated by the elite above to believe they have no solid future, but for far more practical reasons. Successful persons they see with nice clothes, nice cars, expensive sneakers are drug dealers; the only people they see displaying their version, definition of I have arrived are drug dealers. Their parents, their neighbors, their community members work hard, work long hours still live in a dilapidated area, still drive beat up old cars assuming they have one to begin with, until one teacher in Chicago decided to reach out. He traded his suite and tie meant to identify him as a teacher, meant to distinguish him from his students for the attire of the neighborhood drug dealers; bought himself the expensive shirts, pants, sneakers, when buying a car purposefully went for something attention garbing nice, put custom rims on it to the point his students were asking him what he was doing, saying he must sell drugs. At which point he told them no, he went to college, earned a degree, students flabbergasted they too could go to college, get a degree, find a legitimate job and eventually afford those things, eventually meet those goals thing right way.            

You know one upon a time not so long ago, in the Mayberry they all seem to want to go back to, the nostalgia they want to all remind us of, buying items at a convenience store while friends listen to music in the car, walking home with ice tea and skittles were things done by varying age young people given degrees of independence, not things that can end your life. The punishment for disrespecting an adult was a lecture, at worst a spanking, the punishment for playing your music too loud was a warning from the police, perhaps a noise citation. Being found giving an attitude to an adult, “wandering the streets at night” would find you escorted home by a Good Samaritan and you’d lose privileges for disrespect, misbehavior while being allowed that independence you obviously weren’t ready to handle. Sure texting, using your smartphone in odd places, movie theaters, events is certainly rude, so is playing your music too loud; back in the day when everyone respected their elders, lived picturesque lives, a possible reason for fisticuffs, a bloody nose, some bruises, not shots fired and death at the hands of otherwise sane, supposedly upstanding members of the community. By the by, not so long ago, we used to venerate our elders because they had something unique, profound to offer, possessed wisdom to share; now there appears nothing to respect and the wisdom of younger generations outshines the older. Currently, while you have the legal right to stand your ground, standing your ground is not always the right, best thing to do; stand your ground is not, never was carte blanche to injure maim and kill people.