No Country for Young Black Men


Another one gone too soon.

I’m not ashamed to say I live on The Huffington Post. It is there I satisfy my addiction for nearly everything newsy. So when I first ran across yet another story about the shooting of an African American teenager, who for all intent and purpose was minding his own business, it hurt to the core. Once I was over the hurt the anger rolled in like a thick swirling fog, obscuring my thoughts to the point I couldn’t form a coherent sentence in order to comment.

So incensed was I it took nearly an hour to respond to the first article. The article was accompanied by a video with the perpetrator’s daughter and lawyer’s take on the situation. My response was as follow: “Now that bullying has been brought to the forefront of our national consciousness, the deliberate killing of African American boys by grown men who then turn around and invoke this insane ‘stand your ground’ law must gain equal if not more traction in the media. Two young men killed while doing nothing more than minding their own business is two too many. This growing trend must be nipped in the bud before more black teens are gunned down for simply existing by ‘nice’ white men. A foundation is a good start but more must be done before young AA boys end up on the endangered species list.”

Another commenter, describing himself as a young black male, opined there was no greater country in the world in which a black man could enrich himself. He went on to say he’d been discriminated against many times. Black folk, he suggested, should suck it up and not use the incidence as another stumbling block toward personal success. He was responding to another article, this one by Melissa Harris-Perry in which she suggested this country is no place for young black men.

Melissa cited Emmett Till’s death back in the 1950s to make the point that over the passage of American history nothing much has changed: “No presumption of innocence for young black men, no benefit of the doubt. Guilt not determined by what they did or said but presumed to be inherent in their very being. They need not wield a weapon to pose a threat because if you are a young black man, you are threat enough.”

Someone commented the boys should’ve just turned their music down instead of ‘lipping off’. Then went on to say boys like that tend to ‘lip off’ especially when a bunch of them are together. Now these boys were at a gas station minding their own business when the perpetrator drove up and insisted they turn their music down. Allegedly words were exchanged and then the shooting started.

Jordan Russell Davis, who was sitting in the back seat, was shot and killed. Even if the kids had “lipped off” should they’ve been shot dead for it? If that’s the case, many teenagers of all races and economic backgrounds are as good as dead. I mean just think about it for a moment. Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin could’ve been your son, grandson, nephew, cousin, etc. One hanging out listening to music, the other headed home with an iced-t drink and skittles, both minding his own business.

I called on Socrates, who drank his own death and never wrote a damn thing down, when I commented on Melissa’s story: “I remember a time when unruly skateboarders downtown and around businesses used to be a real problem. However, instead of opening fire on these mostly white youth, some cities opened parks specifically for skaters. I believe skateboarding is now considered an Olympic sport. Replace the white youth with black and God only knows how many would’ve ended up in jail or worst. Just one example of youthful indiscretion and tolerance applied to one race while yet another is subjected to intolerance and labeled thugs. By the way loud music isn’t restricted to young black boys. It’s doubtful the tolerance will be there when fools with guns start killing suburban white children. IMHO Melissa is spot on in her assessment.”

The lives of these teenagers unnecessarily cut short, leaving behind grief-stricken parents who never saw it coming. Parents asking why and praying that there is justice for their sons. All the while these two cowards with a gun are attempting to hide behind Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. A law already proven to make no sense and would offer cover to the likes of George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn if it is to be allowed if and when the cases are prosecuted.

As I pondered the fate of young black men in this country and wrung my hands in frustration over their seeming plight, the letter below appeared in my inbox:

Dear Mary,

It happened again.  Last week, an unarmed African-American teenager was shot and killed in Florida by a person claiming self-defense because he “felt threatened.”

Seventeen-year-old Jordan Russell Davis and three of his friends were listening to music in their car parked outside a convenience store in Jacksonville, Florida.  Michael Dunn pulled up next to them and asked the group of teens to turn down the music.

We don’t know exactly what happened next.  A confrontation ensued, and 45-year-old Dunn allegedly took out a gun and shot eight or nine times into the teenagers’ car.  Dunn’s attorney has claimed that the teenagers had a shotgun in the car, but Jacksonville police said no weapon was found in the car.

What we do know is that Jordan was shot and killed.

And we know that Dunn, who was arrested and charged with murder, has pled not guilty on the grounds that he acted in justifiable self-defense as defined by Florida’s controversial “Shoot First” law.

Everyday arguments should not turn into armed conflicts in which teenagers are killed — and for which killers can go unpunished.  Tell the Florida Legislature that the Shoot First law must be repealed or substantially reformed.

As Lt. Rob Schoonover of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said, Jordan’s friends admitted their music was loud, “but, I mean that’s not a reason for someone to open fire on them.”

Jordan was killed less than two weeks after the Florida Governor’s Task Force reviewing the state’s Shoot First law issued its report to the legislature.  The Task Force ignored the dangerous effects of the law and recommended only minor changes to the statute.

If we let the Task Force’s recommendations stand as the final word, we’ll only see more senseless violence and more innocent teenagers shot to death.

Tell Florida legislators to make real reforms to the Shoot First law that will prevent needless deaths.

Let’s act now and make sure no one can use this dangerous law to escape responsibility for gunning people down.


Ginny Simmons

Director, Second Chance Campaign