If you're not pissed off, you should be, and yes I'm yelling at the computer right now while typing this! In my attempt to wait a few days before writing what I think about another murder trial in Florida gone horribly wrong, I wanted to approach the situation with a clear and open mind. I wanted to put to use my years of schooling and my common sense to come up with an answer as to why the justice system in that state is so off base.
I can't pretend that I know everything about the legal system, my time working as a crime reporter didn't necessarily leave me with a degree in criminology. I especially don't walk around thinking I know the laws of Florida, but what I do know is that I would never want to relive my teen years there. I would never want to be the object of people who walk around thinking they can take the law into their own hands and become this new age version of vigilante justice just because they deem me and people who may look like me to be a danger to them.
As a disclaimer I will say this, I couldn't bring myself to watch the entire trial of Michael Dunn and here's why. As a reporter in Cedar Rapids, Iowa I covered many rallies with people protesting the death of Trayvon Martin. When I moved to New York, I watched every single day of the George Zimmerman trial; because of that I just couldn't take watching any more. I needed a break and my mind needed a break. I did however watch the last couple of days, the closing arguments, the instructions to the jury and while I can't comment on what the jury might have been thinking and their logic behind the verdict they reached; I can say this, I am completely and utterly disturbed that my nephews just won't get the fair shot that I received growing up, because someone may deem them scary or a threat.
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. A group of teens sitting in a car, for all I know were minding their business when someone approaches them because he doesn't like the music being played. Who are you? Who died and gave you supreme authority? Michael Dunn should have minded his own business that night, but that can't happen now. Jordan Davis is dead and he can never be brought back to this earth. So, yes I am pissed off because an innocent, unarmed black boy had to die. And why? Here's my open letter to my nephews, black boys across the world, and anyone else who may be disadvantaged because of the color of their skin, or social class.
Dear Boy Growing Into a Man,
First things first, it is important for you to remember that you are someone special. Don't lose sight on the world telling you that you are less than the next person. Don't get caught up in the evils of the world and don't let your situation or circumstance hinder you from becoming all that you can be. This world isn't always the best place, but I think if you put your mind to it you can accomplish many great things. I understand the joys of growing up, the joys of hanging out with your friends and discovering who you are. Keep in mind that more than likely the deck is already stacked highly against you and it's up to you to change people's perception and to not give them a reason to think you are anything but a productive citizen of society.
Enjoy your youth and it's natural to make mistakes, but learn from them. Don't ever walk around with your head hung low thinking that you can't be all that you can be. Don't be afraid to speak out when you feel there's wrong being done to you or someone you love. In the word's of one my dearest uncles who would always tell me "You have to stand up for yourself, don't let anyone tell you that you can't, and never let anyone take advantage of you." He is absolutely right, the system isn't meant to be highly in your favor. So you have to make sure that you are always on top of your game and always several steps ahead of the competition. I'm not saying that you are going to be the model citizen, but when you make a mistake be ready make it right. There's so much more I want to say but this is to get you started. Stay the course and even in those times when you feel that people are mistreating you, help them to understand you are human too, that you are more than just another statistic, and that you not only demand but command respect.
A Man Still Learning but Sharing Wisdom