Racism is defined, in general terms, as actions, practices or beliefs that are based on the view that human beings are divided into races with shared traits, abilities, or qualities that are inherited and that this inheritance means races can be ranked as inherently superior or inferior to others, or that members of different races should be treated differently. Although it is tragic that racial animus is not a prosecutable crime, there are instances when the result of racism can be prosecuted. Yesterday a Florida jury convicted a man for expressing racial animus with a firearm.
Although Michael Dunn was convicted of lesser crimes for brutally murdering an African American child, 17-year old Jordan Davis, the jury could not bring itself to convict Dunn for the crime he committed; first degree murder. Now, Dunn lied to convince jurors he was fulfilling the “stand your ground” requirement that he was in imminent danger he and his lawyer claim qualified Dunn for immunity from prosecution under the American Legislative Exchange Council and NRA-written “Stand Your Ground” law. Dunn was charged with first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree attempted murder, and one count of shooting or throwing a deadly missile. Jurors also were given the option of considering lesser charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter, second-degree attempted murder and attempted manslaughter; the jury opted for the lesser charges because a white man killed an unarmed African American boy.
Dunn was found guilty of three counts of attempted second-degree murder and shooting a deadly missile when he fired 10 times at Davis’ SUV, hitting the vehicle nine times when the African American boys failed to obey Dunn’s order to turn down rap music that fueled his racially-motivated shooting spree. It is likely that since it was only nine months since George Zimmerman murdered another African American boy, the racist Dunn believed Florida’s Stand Your Ground law gave him immunity from prosecution for taking out a firearm and murdering Jordan Davis. ALEC’s Stand Your Ground law grants immunity from criminal and civil charges to anyone who uses deadly force anywhere they have a legal right to be if they can convince jurors they had a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm or death.
Throughout the trial, Dunn and his lawyer invoked language straight out of the Stand Your Ground law to argue that he fired nine rounds into a parked vehicle in self-defense regardless the teen was not armed. It is difficult to comprehend what went through the jurors’ minds, but how they found Dunn guilty of second-degree charges instead of first-degree is curious when it is obvious that Dunn took time to reach in his glove compartment, un-holster his gun, and then fire into the vehicle Jordan Davis was sitting. Common sense informs that Dunn was not in fear of imminent bodily harm or death and just could not tolerate young African Americans failing to obey his command to turn their rap music down. There is no doubt Dunn is a racist based on letters he sent while awaiting trial.
The Florida State’s Attorney’s Office released letters Dunn wrote from jail that prove his racial animus was behind Davis’ murder. In one letter Dunn wrote that, “This jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs. … This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these **** idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.” So, were African Americans in jail threatening Dunn by playing rap music at a volume he objected to? Because that is the threat Dunn perceived when he unloaded his firearm into the car Davis was sitting. Dunn also wrote in a letter to his girlfriend that “I just got off the phone with you and we were talking about how racist the blacks are up here. The more time I am exposed to these people, the more prejudiced against them I become.” It is Dunn’s letter to his grandmother that reveals the extent of Dunn’s racism and why rap music influenced his decision to murder Jordan Davis. He wrote “I’m not really prejudiced against race, but I have no use for certain cultures. This gangster-rap, ghetto talking thug ‘culture’ that certain segments of society flock to is intolerable.” Michael Dunn believed he could use the Stand Your Ground defense to teach Jordan Davis’s friends that they had better “take the hint and change their behavior.”
There was an attempt to repeal Florida’s Stand Your Ground law that gave Zimmerman and Dunn reason to believe they could murder unarmed African American boys with impunity, but the effort fell short. However, at the same time the repeal attempt failed, Florida Republicans were pushing to expand Stand Your Ground to further protect Floridians who Stand Their Ground and kill unarmed African Americans. The ALEC-NRA law has been cited by many gun zealots who were vigilantes, and in Florida at least 26 children and teens and 134 individuals overall have died in Stand Your Ground cases since the law’s passage. The expansion attempt was called a “warning shot” bill, but was changed to a “threatened force” bill that extends Stand Your Ground-like immunity from both criminal and civil charges to those who point a gun at an attacker or fire a gun as a self-defense threat or warning. The provision easily passed a House committee in November, and Florida’s Senate Judiciary Committee took up the bill last week.
The bill is promoted by the National Rifle Association and Republicans to capitalize on provisions that rolled back Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing scheme to protect criminals who use guns in the commission of a crime. In a Sarasota Herald-Tribune op/ed taken verbatim out of a press release by past NRA President Marion P. Hammer, a gun fanatic wrote that “People make mistakes and do irrational things when in fear of death or injury. That doesn’t mean they should go to prison for 20 years when there was no injury or harm done.” The op/ed did not explain the true nature of the bill that does more than just remove mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of gun related crimes; it removes all criminal and civil liability for invoking the original Stand Your Ground law. The law’s passage means there will be more rulings and verdicts that excuse fatal shootings of unarmed victims and remove any deterrent to start shooting because expanding Stand Your Ground provide
It is a sad fact of life that racism still infects a disproportionate number of Americans who share Michael Dunn’s ideology that “if more people would arm themselves and kill these **** idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.” Certainly the National Rifle Association supports the idea of more people arming themselves to kill African Americans and their support for expanding Florida’s Stand Your Ground law to immunize gun-toting racists from prosecution is proof their business is promoting gun violence. Ideally, the NRA wants every American armed to-the-teeth and incentivized to use firearms whether for self-defense in the home or “anyplace they have the legal right to be.”
Michael Dunn had a legal right to park next to four young African Americans, but he did not have the right to demand they turn their music down or begin firing his gun because they failed to comply with his order. Dunn will spend time in prison where he belongs, but not because he is a vile racist, but because he, like many Americans would like, acted on his racial animus and murdered Jordan Davis. Unfortunately, Florida Republicans, ALEC, and the NRA are taking steps to make sure the next Michael Dunn, or George Zimmerman, that allows their racial hatred of African Americans or rap music overwhelm them will evade prosecution because racism is as rampant among white Republican gun fanatics as it is in Michael Dunn.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.