Sixty-two years ago, Ralph Ellison, who would have been 80-years-old this week, wrote those words, and one cannot help but be reminded of them today. That is because, for many, including most mainstream media, black youth are still not seen as children, friends, or siblings.
African-Americans are often assumed to be a threat by virtue of their existence. In Dunn's testimony, it's clear that on the day he shot and killed Jordan Davis, he didn't see four teenagers who declined to heed his request that they turn down their music. From his eyes, they were a threat.
I hate criticizing Hip-Hop, but it's definitely become "trap music." I may partake in the ignorant hypocrisy, but like a pitbull, I have trouble defending it.
On November 23, 2012, Michael Dunn, a 47-year-old white man, fired 10 rounds into a parked SUV after arguing over loud rap music coming from the vehicle with Jordan and three other unarmed African American teenagers inside.
Every life matters. When someone is murdered, the loss cannot be measured. Hearing the grief, the real despair about the future in this country for African Americans expressed after the announcement of the Jordan Davis verdict made me think about the past.
The headlines in the case were sadly familiar. An angry adult armed with a gun used it to shoot and kill an unarmed black teenager he thought seemed "bad" -- this time, because the teenager and his friends were sitting in a car listening to music the grownup didn't like. In this outrageous Florida case, a middle-aged white man, Michael Dunn, was convicted of three counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting a gun into an occupied car. Jurors agreed he faced no threat after he was annoyed by loud music -- coming from a car he had deliberately chosen to park next to -- and then started an argument, pulled a gun on the car's black teens, and fired three shots at the young men inside the car as they tried to drive away from him.
The war has become so complex and intersected that Black America is constantly fighting for survival across all classes and identities. The latest buzzword in the war is this concept of the "thug."
Sure, he'll be locked up (at least 60 years for Michael Dunn), but true justice requires a conviction for murder. This did not happen. The reason? Stand Your Ground.
If we can divorce race and firearms, we can talk about racial disparities in America and figure out if we need to create a more just system. And then we can talk about the Second Amendment.
What separates the Michael Dunns and George Zimmermans of the world from your average killer is their insistence that they are not only innocent but wronged.
When do we decide -- as a nation -- that neither Skittles, nor hoodies, nor loud music are supposed to be a death sentence?
I remain baffled by the stand your ground law in Florida. Maybe someone can explain it in simple terms to me, because it appears what the state needs is a mind your business law.
The facts of the case really don't matter anymore, just the feelings and beliefs of the defendant. And when you add the race of the victims into the mix, the disparities in how the law is applied are clear. Basically, if a white man feels or believes he is threatened, regardless of the facts of the case, he can be justified in shooting and killing a black man. The reality of Stand Your Ground laws in Florida and 24 more states is that racial fear and hatred is now legally justified. Black men are always at risk -- as every black parent in this country has told their young boys and as the statistics now bear out.
Many people have asked me how I feel about the Michael Dunn case and the troubling verdict. I am quite vocal about race issues and general human equality so these inquiries come as no surprise.
It's time we loved all our children. Of course, it would be better if we loved all our citizens, but loving our children is a good start. It's time to ask ourselves honestly if our cities value their children equally.
While Dunn is unlikely to ever experience life again as a free man, neither Martin nor Davis will experience life at all beyond their 17th year of existence simply because someone else decided that they were justified in using their gun to 'defend' themselves.