In the aftermath of the recent Michael Dunn verdict, communities across the country have once again been steeped in profuse anxiety. Despite the fact that Dunn was convicted of 4 out of the 5 counts and despite the fact that Dunn faces decades in prison, the fact that he was not convicted for the murder of Jordan Davis has yet again exposed how the deep wound of racism continues to infect our country, particularly the state of Florida. While some may claim at least a partial victory in that Dunn will be spending a significant amount of time behind bars, there is still a palpable distrust, among African Americans including those in Duval County, of the criminal (in)justice system. While some are hopeful that Dunn will be retried, there is still the ever-present feeling that the wound of racism coupled with the controversial "Stand Your Ground" law work together to nurture an environment in which it's "open season" on young men of color. People of color in Florida will remain locked into a perpetual state of fear unless there is a concerted effort to heal the wounds of racism by eliminating all of Florida's Jim Crow policies. Our communities cannot truly flourish economically, politically, and spiritually until we heal those wounds.
One of the daily consequences of this festering racial wound is that parents throughout Florida are living in constant fear that their sons or grandsons will be the next victim of being out in public while black ("BOPWB"). Mothers and grandmothers live in fear that a young black man who "dares" to don dreadlocks will automatically be considered a "thug" and, therefore, subject to suspicion, arrest, and possibly even violence. They worry that a black boy who happens to be relatively "large in stature" might, therefore, on that basis be deemed a "threat" as if being black and big is a "provocation" In and of Itself that might justify arrest and profiling and possibly even violence. No longer can young men of color act in any way that could be construed, in the wildest of imaginations, to pose a possible confrontation with white society; indeed, the unreasonable type of hyper-vigilance that is often absurdly expected of young people of color begs whether such an existence permits them to be kids -- let alone secure human beings -- in the first place. Reminiscent of the Jim Crow era when African Americans dare not "speak back" to whites, or "eyeball" a white man or woman, our young men today must now act in a subservient way to avoid becoming the next victim, but even that provides no guarantee. This is the tragic reality of being young, black, and male in Florida today.
The fact that young men of color are now forced to walk the streets in fear of being murdered is a rueful reflection of the fact that we live in an environment that devalues black and brown lives, as indicated by the disproportionate amount of minorities who are targeted by police agencies and the disproportionate amount of minorities who are disfranchised. But this environment isn't an abstract self-subsisting reality that created itself; no, there are various forces at play that have created and that maintain this environment. And there are powerful human beings who construct and maintain policies that ensure that young people of color will live in constant fear. Complicit in this environment is Florida's Governor Rick Scott and his cabinet, which includes Attorney General Pam Bondi, who have played a key role in consolidating the power of Jim Crow to strike fear into our communities on a daily basis. When Scott and his cabinet created harsher disfranchisement policies, thereby ensuring that over 1.5 million Floridians (who are disproportionately people of color) would be denied status as a full citizen, they gave this Jim Crow environment a big pat on the back. But to throw salt on our deep racial wounds in Florida, these powerful architects and stewards of Jim Crow have turned their backs on persistent attempts by people of color to work with them. When leading elected officials help to perpetuate criminalization and devaluation of minorities, when Scott brazenly disrespects our black elected officials, and when Bondi refuses to sit down with clergy to discuss the current clemency policy and its harmful impacts on our communities, it becomes clearer than ever who wants the wounds to remain.Scott and Bondi, despite knowing that their clemency policies disproportionately impact African Americans (and their communities), still insist on being puppets for the private prison industry, and they continue to ignore the cries of minority communities and clergy. By turning their backs on communities of color time and time again, they have amply demonstrated that they have no interest in healing the wounds which have historically afflicted us. As the 13 million member organization "Christian Churches Together" recently stated:
The legacy of the dehumanization of people of color has borne lasting effects in current-day society. These effects are perhaps most acutely experienced by our African-American brothers and sisters who were deemed non-human, "chattel," by law in the days of antebellum slavery and whose human equality was challenged by the Jim Crow system of subjugation.
As long as Jim Crow is allowed to thrive in Florida, the wound of racism cannot and will not be healed and our state will continue to signal to the masses that it's still "open season" to harm people of color. If the governor and his cabinet are not interested in being a part of the healing process then we shouldn't sit by idly in 2014. We, the people, must unite ourselves and prepare ourselves to take massive and unrelenting action to remove policies that, taken together, maintain our status as second-class citizens and render our people moving targets. We must work to dismantle policies that strip away our civil and voting rights, policies which disproportionately channel children of color into the school to prison pipeline, and the broken "war on drugs" which disproportionately targets and imprisons people of color. If we are serious about building safe communities and if we are serious about preventing future tragedies like those of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, then get ready to take action and stay tuned for ways to get involved in our "Lifelines to Healing" campaign. The time for healing is not tomorrow or next year. The time for healing is now!