You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

White fear trumps black life


On Aug. 7, 1930, two young black men were lynched in Marion, Ind.

A photographer named Lawrence Beitler had a studio across the street from the lynching tree. He came out and snapped what became an iconic photo, which he made into a postcard and sold. It shows Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith hanging dead and their executioners, faces clearly visible, milling about as if at a picnic. Though authorities possessed this damning photographic evidence, they never arrested anyone for the crime. It was officially attributed to “persons unknown.”

This was not a unique thing. To the contrary, it happened thousands of times. And African-Americans carry this knowledge deep — the understanding that the justice system has betrayed us often, denied the value of our lives, often.

This knowledge lent a certain tension and poignancy to the wait for a verdict in the Jordan Davis trial last week. Davis was the black kid shot dead by a white man, Michael Dunn, at a gas station in Jacksonville, Fla., in November 2012 after an argument over loud music. Dunn’s story was fishy from the beginning.

He claimed Davis pointed a weapon at him. No weapon was ever found. Nor was Dunn ever able to satisfactorily explain why he fired off a second round of shots as the SUV in which Davis was riding tried to retreat. Or why he left the scene and failed to call police. Or why his fiancee, who was inside the convenience store when the shooting started, says he never mentioned Davis’ phantom “gun” to her.

A guilty verdict would seem to have been a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t.

The verdict was mystifying. Dunn was found guilty on three counts of attempted murder — meaning the three other young men in the SUV with Davis — but the jury deadlocked on the murder charge. If Dunn is guilty of the three charges, how can he not be guilty of the fourth?

The jury’s inability to hold him accountable for Davis’ death only validates African-Americans’ grimmest misgivings about the “just us” system.

Dunn decided Davis was — his word — a “thug” and shot him. George Zimmerman decided Trayvon Martin was a thug and stalked him. New York police decided Amadou Diallo was a thug and shot him. And so on.

These decisions are made independent of anything a man actually is — or does. They are made on sight, out of the same impulse that finds African-Americans committing a minority of drug crimes but doing, in some jurisdictions, 90 percent of drug time. They are made, in a word, in fear, the unspoken but clear recognition that black boys and men are our national boogeymen — they threaten by existing — and therefore it is … understandable if occasionally one gets shot by accident.

If Davis had been a white kid in an SUV full of same playing their music too loudly, does anyone really think the confrontation with Dunn would have escalated to the point of gunfire? And if for some reason it had, is anyone so naive as to believe the jury would have failed to convict Dunn of murder?

But Dunn, unlike the killers of Shipp and Smith — and Martin and Diallo — is at least going to jail for something, right? Indeed, at 47, he may spend the rest of his life behind bars. And yes, you could call that progress.

But you could call it some other things, too.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in News

Springfield students tackle invasive plants, other community projects
Springfield students tackle invasive plants, other community projects

A Springfield school helped cut down an invasive plant species in the city as part of a day of service. Honeysuckle is considered a threatening plant said LeAnn Castillo, the Executive Director of National Trails Parks and Recreation District to local wildflowers and plants. The plant was introduced to the United States as an ornamental plant for gardens...
Katharine the great white shark lurking in waters off central Florida coast
Katharine the great white shark lurking in waters off central Florida coast

  Katharine, the great white shark, has surfaced again in Florida waters, this time pinging off the coast just north of Port St. Lucie. Katharine, who has been swimming up the east coast of Florida since January, started her northward trek parallel to Lake Worth on January 13. In the months that have followed, she has moved up the coast as far...
OPINION: What boxing taught me about life

You may not know that Dayton has a rich history of boxing, including bouts by Muhammad Ali, Jack Dempsey and other boxing greats. Joe Louis knocked out Biff Bennett during an exhibition match at Memorial Hall in 1935. Nowadays, “Knockout Dayton” and “Fight Night” are two of the current local boxing matches. Both support good...
COMMENTARY: Immigration the link between French, American elections

In case you’ve been confused by the last few days of punditry, let me say outright that France is not America. For example, we recently concluded a presidential election in the United States in which many argued that it was imperative to smash the “final glass ceiling” by electing a female president. One doesn’t hear that kind...
COMMENTARY: Did President Trump help Bill O’Reilly’s case or sink it?

Fans of Bill O’Reilly are predictably upset that Fox News has pulled the plug on his popular show, “The O’Reilly Factor.” But take heart, folks. Bill O’Reilly isn’t really gone. You can hear his spirit in the Oval Office. “Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled,” said President Donald Trump...
More Stories