Call it black blindness.
It is a kind of myopia that afflicts some of us — too many of us — whenever we gaze upon a dark-skinned man. It causes some of us — too many of us — to see things that are not there, and to miss things that are. Sometimes, it is fatal.
Such was the case for Amadou Diallo, the African immigrant who died in a hailstorm of gunfire in 1999 after police mistook his wallet for a gun.
We cannot yet know if black blindness was the cause of death for Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old black kid who was killed the night after Thanksgiving. But there is reason to suspect it was. Davis was shot by a 45-year-old white man, Michael David Dunn, who says he saw a rifle. At this writing, police have recovered no such weapon.
The altercation began with an argument in a gas station in Jacksonville, Fla. Dunn had pulled in so his girlfriend could go to the convenience store. In an SUV next to him were Davis and three other teenagers playing their music too loudly. Dunn told them to turn it down. An argument ensued. Dunn’s attorney, Robin Lemonidis, says the teenagers peppered him with obscenities and insults. Then, she says, Davis poked a rifle through an open window, threatened her client and began to open the door of the SUV. Dunn reached for his pistol, she says, and came up firing. The SUV peeled out. Dunn kept shooting at it because, his lawyer says, he feared the teenagers might come back after him.
“There is no racial motivation here whatsoever,” she told The New York Times. But even if you buy that, Dunn’s story still has holes in it you could drive a shot-up SUV through.
Consider: someone’s got a gun trained on you, about to shoot, yet you have time to reach for your glove box, open it, unholster your own weapon, as Lemonidis says her client did, and bring it up? Not even Little Joe Cartwright was that fast on the draw.
Then there’s the fact that afterward, Dunn and his girlfriend went to a hotel. You’ve been threatened, you had to shoot to save your life … and you go to a hotel? You don’t alert authorities about this SUV full of dangerous kids roaming the streets?