At just 17 years old, Jordan Davis died with his back to his killer. He will not graduate college. He will not marry the love of his life. He will not become a father. And he will never know what it means to fully experience an American Dream many young white men have been inherently entitled to. In fact, in Ameri(can't), as it was in the Jim Crow South, it's still a deadly offense to "disrespect," "frighten," "walk by" or basically do anything that a white person deems offensive. No need for a noose when a gun will do. No need for witnesses or facts to corroborate your version of events. And no need to introduce logic into the equation. You can, according to a Jacksonville jury, gun down a black child and leave his dead body, riddled with bullets, where you found him. And you'll escape conviction for your troubles.
What might've prevented this and other recent injustices? An ongoing, productive and inclusive dialogue on race, one America now deems unnecessary. What's abundantly clear is that Ameri(can't), or won't, ensure justice for all. Ameri(can't) escape its past by erasing it from history books and practicing revisionist histrionics. Ameri(can't) continue to value one life over another without lessening the quality for all its citizens. Ameri(can't) continue to cite black-on-black crimes as a justification for its own despicable ones. And for all its glorious strides, Ameri(can't) and shouldn't rest on its laurels if it hopes to live up to the ideals of not only its founding fathers, but those who were burdened with the task of actually implementing them.
If this is the only America I, an African American, am entitled to then I don't want it. You can keep your back woods antebellum mentality and your self-serving justice system, and your inept prosecutors. What you will not take, however, is the legacy of those who have fallen prey to a country that still isn't as good as the principles it espouses. Sadly, America has apparently outgrown the notion of useful healthy debates on racial inequities because blacks aren't currently being raped, enslaved and slaughtered. And while the weapons and the means have changed, make no mistake about it, the crimes continue.
Perhaps it's easier for some if they're not reminded of the atrocities committed in America -- but newsflash -- no one is here is tasked to make life easier for others. My ancestors were forced to do so. I will not. The time has come for some of us to make offenses, to not sit down and take a measure of justice when more is required and deserved. Certainly, Jordan Davis' parents deserved more than a mistrial on the most serious charge of murdering their son. And while gunman Michael Dunn was convicted of lesser crimes that will likely keep him behind bars indefinitely, he has, for now, gotten away with the killing. Blood is on Dunn's hands, but it's also on America's. One hundred years ago, Davis and Martin would have been lynched for "frightening" or "intimidating" their aggressors. Today, in America, this country, whose morals are apparently malleable, they were gunned down. Worse yet, these shootings were justified.
It would be too easy to blame everything on a fallible jury that failed to deliver justice. In truth, part of the problem is that Americans have foolishly convinced themselves that any race dialogue is unpatriotic, counterproductive and bordering on the offensive. But, what is truly offensive is those who forget the struggle and sit idle when confronted with modern instances of justice denied. You cannot give me the right to vote and then slaughter my children. You cannot tell me how to grieve my ancestors and then call my patriotism into question when I continue to see specters of the past haunting a new generation. My parents had Emmitt Till. We have inherited Travyon Martin, Jordan Davis, Marissa Alexander, and scores more. This is what happens when a community deems itself beyond reproach: gross entitlement settles in and rogue violence quickly follows.
If we're ever going to witness true and genuine advancement for all Americans, we can't allow for the subjugation of our most vulnerable. We can't cry freedom and democracy and then muzzle those groups we deem unworthy, based on nothing more than our own glaring insecurities. And if we continue to allow and promote entitlement we will never rise above the most basic and provincial expectations for ourselves. We can't have it both ways. We can't be a nation of guns and not expect to continue to go to war over who is and isn't worthy of the American Dream. And until we have these tough and often taxing discussions we cannot call ourselves a true democracy with a checks and balances system that routinely and fairly considers and reconsiders everyone, of every political, racial, spiritual and economic stripe.
America, if you don't want to be brought to the table for a fair, healthy discussion on the state of your race relations, other forces (i.e., peaceful protests, targeted boycotts) might bring you to your knees.
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