Yet another white man gets away with it


WHEN Michael Dunn pulled into a petrol station in Jacksonville, Florida, on November 23 2012, the Dodge Durango SUV containing 17-year-old Jordan Davis and his friends was already on the forecourt.
Dunn, a software developer from out of town, was on the way home from his son’s wedding.
His fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, went into the shop to buy wine and crisps, while he stayed in the car with the couple’s puppy.
The four teenagers in the Durango were playing loud hip-hop on the car’s stereo.
Dunn considered the music ‘rap crap’ and ‘thug music’.
He became annoyed by its volume and asked the teens to turn it down.
Dunn, who is white, would later claim he was threatened verbally by Davis, who was black, and that he saw what he believed was the barrel of a gun emerging from the SUV.
Dunn pulled a handgun from his glove compartment, firing 10 bullets at the Durango.
“My intent was to stop the attack, not necessarily end a life,” Dunn testified at his trial, as his lawyers argued that he fired in self-defence.
Davis was hit three times and died.
What happened immediately after the shooting is very much telling about Dunn and his attitude in regards to what he had done.
Dunn and his girlfriend, Rhonda Rouer, drove 40 miles south to St Augustine, where they had reservations at a bed and breakfast.
Once there, Dunn ordered pizza, ‘took his little dog for a walk’, ordered a movie and ‘poured a big, tall drink — rum and Coke’.
According to the prosecutor, “They had cellphones, but they didn’t call 911.
“He didn’t drive to a police substation.
“That defendant put his head on his hotel pillow and went to sleep.”
In the morning, Rouer saw a news report about a shooting at a Jacksonville gas station, in which a 17-year-old had been killed, and rather than call police, the couple packed their bags and drove 130 miles home to Satellite Beach, where Dunn was finally apprehended.
Dunn told police officers who questioned him that, he “was waiting till we get around people we know” to call authorities, and he wanted to ensure “our dog and everybody were where they needed to be.
“I did not want to bring a s**tstorm down on them in Jacksonville.”
On Saturday, February 15 2014, after 30 hours of deliberation, a jury in Jacksonville was unable to reach a verdict on the charge of first-degree murder of Jordan Davis.
Dunn, still faces life behind bars, after being found guilty on four lesser counts, including three of attempted second-degree murder, which carry a combined mandatory minimum sentence of 60 years.
This is an unsatisfactory conclusion to a trial that has raised troubling memories of another unarmed black teenager’s death.
The parents of Trayvon Martin, whose killer George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder last year, said Davis’s death was a reminder that in Florida, ‘racial profiling and stereotypes’ could lead to ‘the shooting and killing of young teenagers’.
Zimmerman shot dead Martin in Sanford, about 125 miles from where Dunn shot Davis.
The cases were both prosecuted by the same State’s Attorney’s office.
Ken Jefferson of ‘Operation Save Our Sons’, a national initiative aimed at empowering young African-American men, told The New York Times: “The verdict won’t sit well with the black community in Jacksonville.”
The Trayvon Martin case, he said, had created, ‘a feeling of being able to shoot black people and get away with it’.
Why are black males always portrayed as the violent ones by society? Threatened by growing black economic and political power in the early 20th century, white men calling themselves the Ku Klux Klan used this same portrayal of black men as violent, sexual predators to justify racial terrorism.
It is estimated that from 1880 to 1930, more than 2 400 African-Americans were lynched, often for insulting white men or forgetting ‘their place’.
For contemporary angry white men, standing up to ‘gangsta rap’ and ‘thugs’ is akin to night-riding on black men, as portrayed in D.W. Griffith’s classic 1915 film The Birth of a Nation.
Although economic downturns disproportionately affect black unemployment and home ownership, working-class and college-educated whites are now feeling the sting of restricted opportunity.
In his book Angry White Men, sociologist Michael Kimmel describes how these men often blame the trifecta of feminism, affirmative action and immigration for their woes.
The relative devaluing of white privilege has been interpreted as racial oppression of whites and ‘reverse discrimination’.
Opinion polls suggest that half of all white Americans now see themselves as the targets of racism, and that number pushes past 60 percent among self-identified Republicans and among those who watch Fox News.
As Adam Mansbach, the author of Angry Black White Boy, argues, the saturation of American popular culture with images of wealthy, sexy and cool black people like Jay Z and Beyoncé has left many white youths feeling inadequate and shut out of the American dream.
White-student unions on college campuses like Towson University and Georgia State University exemplify the backlash against the tanning of success.
In Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, Charles Murray — of ‘The Bell Curve’ fame — blames liberals for what he sees as the pathologies of white America.
Likewise, Dunn, writing to his grandmother, reached a similar conclusion, that, ‘the courts are biased toward blacks’ and his prosecution was the result of ‘a bunch of liberal bulls–t’ and ‘white guilt’.
This, despite the fact that social science research clearly documents racial bias against blacks at every stage of the criminal-justice process, including police stops, arrests, bail, legal representation, jury selection, trial prosecution, sentencing, incarceration and parole.
More likely, the recent shootings of unarmed black people are related to a hateful strain of minority-white politics stoked by the Tea Party and right-wing commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan, who has written despairingly of the ‘demographic winter of white America’ and once described President Barack Obama as a ‘drug dealer of welfare’.
This kind of race-baiting exploits the legitimate concerns held by white people, and other Americans, who are becoming the casualties of widening inequality and the crippling costs of college education and health care.
The jury in the Dunn case failed to convict him on the first-degree-murder charge for Jordan’s death, which signals our society’s deep ambivalence about both the value of black life and about holding white men accountable for their murderous rage.
Unless we deal with the underlying crisis in white masculinity, we should expect similar tragedies in the future.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here