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Friday, October 28, 2016

“You can get killed just for living in your American skin.” — Bruce Springsteen

On Aug. 7, 1930, two young black men were lynched in Marion, Indiana.

A photographer named Lawrence Beitler had a studio across the street from the lynching tree. He came out and snapped what became an iconic photo, which he made into a postcard and sold. It shows Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith hanging dead and their executioners, faces clearly visible, milling about as if at a picnic. Though authorities possessed this damning photographic evidence, they never arrested anyone for the crime. It was officially attributed to “persons unknown.”

This was not a unique thing. To the contrary, it happened thousands of times. And African-Americans carry this knowledge deep, carry it in blood and sinew, the understanding that the justice system has betrayed us often, smashed our hopes often, denied the value of our lives, often.

This knowledge lent a certain tension and poignancy to the wait for a verdict in the Jordan Davis trial last week. Davis was the black kid shot dead by a white man, Michael Dunn, at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida, in November 2012 after an argument over loud music. Dunn’s story was fishy from the beginning.

He claimed Davis pointed a weapon at him. No weapon was ever found. Nor was Dunn ever able to satisfactorily explain why he fired off a second round of shots as the SUV in which Davis was riding tried to retreat. Or why he left the scene and failed to call police. Or why his fiancée, who was inside the convenience store when the shooting started, says he never mentioned Davis’ phantom “gun” to her.

A guilty verdict would seem to have been a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t.

Indeed, the verdict was mystifying. Dunn was found guilty on three counts of attempted murder — meaning the three other young men in the SUV with Davis — but the jury deadlocked on the murder charge. It makes no sense: If Dunn is guilty of the three charges, how can he not be guilty of the fourth?

  • Daniel Jones

    I call it white-washing. I call it evil. I call it shameful.

    ..I call this standard operating procedure. I’ll be honest–I don’t believe in American justice anymore, and I haven’t for a number of years.

  • charles king

    There is so much (Critical Thinking) that us Americans should do about our relationship with one another. Like King said” WHY? can’t we all just get along together” Smile. What? the hell is going on in this country When? you cant get justice for all of their citizens. Who? can you turn too for solutions, When? will the terror for the Black Male Stop. I have mix feelings about this subject because I had some terriifying moments while in the U. S. Navy(1948-1953) left me with a dislike for American Whites, but over the years I was able to change through Love and Education. Hate do not work, ignorants do not work, Who? ever have these problems you better get some understanding about yourselves because there is no happy ending to your life. I believe you have succeeded in life When? all you really want is only What? you really need. [Vernon Howard] Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. Watch out for Plutocracy VS Democracy . MR. C. E. KING

    • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

      Mister King (and I am calling you this out of respect), I am sorry about your experience in the Navy. During your era was when President Truman enabled the “experiment” to undo the segregation shoved down the Navy’s throat by President Wilson. Sort of amazing that one Southern Democrat (from Missouri) had to undo what another Southern Democrat (don’t believe the New Jersey hype – Wilson was born and raised in Virginia right after the Civil War) had callously imposed.
      There was a lot of resentment against Blacks by other Navy Personnel, believing they should only be cooks and “black gang”. By the time I was in the Navy and serving on Submarines (1980s) the USN and somewhat recovered from the prejudice you had to endure and the subsequent reactions in the 60s and early 70s.
      One time one of the Black guys in our crew (a 2nd Class RM) was trying to claim the race card about him not being selected for a special assignment. One of the other Black guys on the crew (a 3rd Class Fire Control Tech) looked at him and said, “No. You didn’t get the assignment because you are an asshole, not because you are Black.” That pretty much settled the race game on that crew.

      • Justin Napolitano

        Maybe on that one occasion but don’t kid yourself black people are still treated as second class people by many white people and are not given a chance to advance.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    In the movie “A Time to Kill” Matthew McConaughey’s character wins acquital for his character by his closing statement to the Jury, ending with the command “now, imaging she’s white.” If the prosecutor had used that in his summation to the jury, he may have had a grand slam of convictions. However, I believe if he had gone for Manslaughter, it would have definitely gotten the conviction. I hope you are correct, though, that Dunn will never see a free day in his life again.

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  • TZToronto

    Anyone who thinks that America is a post-racial society is deluding himself. How often have we heard “the first black astronaut,” the first black President,” “the first black Senator from . . . ,” “the first black Secretary of State,” “the first black head coach,” “the first black mayor,” “the first black quarterback?” If race weren’t an issue in America, you’d never hear any of these “firsts.” Sadly, there are a lot of people who don’t see people; they see black people. And more often than not they see black men as thugs (which is code for you-know-what).

  • charles king

    Thank You Sir are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All just look out for Plutocracy VS Democracy. Mr. C. E. KING

  • RobGinChicago

    The one juror who has spoken publicly says that, while she and 8 others had voted to convict Dunn of first degree murder, three hold-outs seemed to give some credence to Dunn’s implausible claims of self-defense, so that the jury ultimately entered guilty findings as to the attempted murder charges based solely on the volley of three shots that Dunn fired at the Durango as the young men tried to get the hell out of harm’s way when the bullets began flying. Angela Corey should now understand what she needs to fix when she goes into the second trial on count one.

    • Sand_Cat

      Try absurd, ridiculous, transparently false (no offense to you intended!).

  • Noel Padilla Sr.

    if you look like a duck you may be treated as such. I don’t care if you’re white, black, Hispanic or Asian, etc. If you are wearing your pants below your ass and and teeth gleaming with gold, I’m going to make the same decision most would-thug. If a real thug were to approach me wearing a suit, neatly groomed and no gold teeth-he’d probably rob me blind-as most of us. That being said, I really try to push those feelings back but it’s difficult not to feel uneasy. This is no excuse to shoot someone over loud music or any reason other than your life is in danger. This is just another example of our way too liberal gun laws. I lost count as to how many mentally unstable people I know own guns. I also see where after people start carrying guns they put themselves in harms way where they would never have before.

    • Kim Serrahn

      You sir are not nice, said this grey haired old white grandma. Think I’ll crank up the Run DMC. Oh snap I forgot to put my belt on.

  • Kurt CPI

    Although I wasn’t in the courtroom and don’t have the information the jurors had in deadlocking on the 4th charge, I have to agree with Pitts that the fourth count would appear to follow the other three. The evidence seems to clearly suggest that this was the act of a bullying, arrogant racist who deserves the full extent of legal punitive action with no possibility of parole (if indeed the death penalty is not an option).

  • herchato

    Sometimes Americans do some very un-American things!

    • mah101

      Unfortunately, this is all TOO American… We’ve been doing this for centuries.

      • herchato

        Agreed! We’ve had a pattern of discrimination against people immigrating here since the beginning, not to mention the Americans that were already here. I guess haters, racists, and bigots will always be around. Our biggest challenge I believe has always been the saying that all men are created equal. I guess 100s of years of using blacks as slaves and treating them as chattel is just too hard to let go. When I was a boy growing up in Texas I used to think about who

  • rrjkr

    AS most of us are familiar with first degree murder, there must be an element of premeditation, planning, stalking etc. I’m still not clear if this is the case under FL law. It is indisputable that Dunn killed Davis, but was it first degree or a lesser crime like second degree murder or voluntary manslaughter? Was the jury deadlocked on that point? If so were they not instructed that they could consider lesser charges. I find it hard to believe that the jury was racist as they delivered the 3 guilty verdicts for attempted murder. I rather believe they were confused on a technicality, in which case that blame lies with the prosecutor and or the judge, not the jurors.

    • Sand_Cat

      I believe it was the fact that he went to his car after the confrontation was essentially over, got his weapon, and came back. The fact that he didn’t call the police or show any sign of concern, plus the fact that the evidence shows he knowingly shot an unarmed man probably helped set the charge.
      Yes, there is some chance the jury was “confused on a technicality,” there’s “some” possibility that heavy snow will occur in the tropics at sea level during the hot season, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

    • johninPCFL

      A crucial distinction lost on most people is that premeditation is NOT the same as planning. Premeditation is the process of deciding to kill, and may take seconds (not hours.) If Dunn had an argument with the guys in the other car, waited for 10 seconds and then reached for his gun, there was premeditation, and consequently, murder. If he fired a warning shot that killed, that was murder.

  • Justin Napolitano

    My advise, don’t come to Florida. Florida is filled with shoot first and ask questions later, or never, people that are scared of their own shadows. They have that gun with them and decide that it is their whole existence. I have a gun and therefore I am right. Stop coming to Florida, boycott Disney World, Sea World and Universal studios. That is the only way that the Republican, “stand your ground and shoot anyone that gives you a funny look” rulers of Florida will change their ways.
    If you are black don’t even think about coming to Florida, some people might want to kidnap you and force you into slavery.

  • Barbara Morgan

    When Dunn walked back to his car and got his gun that shows that death of one of the 4 teenagers was premeditated. He intended to kill or else he wouldn’t have gone to his car and pulled out a gun and start shooting. He could have gotten into his car and moved it away from the teenagers vehicle instead getting his gun and shooting them but he didn’t do that, he didn’t call the police or go to the police after he shot up their vehicle so it was premeditated and I do not understand why the 3 jurors that deadlocked the jury couldn’t understand that. It seems to this white person they didn’t understand it because the victim was black and the shooter was white and that was the only reason that they would not vote for a guilty verdict especially after what one of jurors that voted guilty had to say about what went on in jury room.

  • Lisztman

    Yet another case of the victim being the guilty party — guilty of driving while being black. Or walking while being black. Or eating Skittles while being black.

    Why do I get the nasty feeling that the prosecution isn’t actually doing its sworn duty?

  • daniel bostdorf

    White fear certainly “trumps” black life.

    “trump card” :
    “The final resort but often the easiest way out. You’re most powerful option in succeeding at anything in life. Unfortunately, once used, the trump card can rarely be used on the same person again. If reused it will rarely be as powerful.”

    The REAL facts about who gets prosecuted more. Pitt’s article is dead on…and white folks better wake up…

    There is a remarkable University dissertation by Kelly Welch of Villanova University.

    It is a must read. 14 pages chocked full of dead on insights and stats.

    From the dissertation:

    “The racial stereotyping of criminals has been an enduring and unfortunate feature of American culture. However, following the civil rights movement, the linkage between Blacks and crime was galvanized. The stereotyping of Blacks as criminals is so pervasive throughout society that “criminal predator” is used as a euphemism for “young Black male.” This common stereotype has erroneously served as a subtle rationale for the unofficial policy and practice of racial profiling by criminal justice practitioners. This article details the theoretical elements contributing to the development of Black criminal typification to understand how this has been used to justify racial profiling…….The current recognizability of the image of a young Black criminal has been the result of various representations of crime. Contributions to this relationship that many identify between African Americans and criminality include actual involvement in crime, especially crack cocaine violations and violent offenses. Blacks do account for a disproportionate amount of crime arrests and are disproportionately convicted and incarcerated. But public estimates of Black criminality surpass the reality. The media perpetuate ideas linking race with criminality, which have also been reinforced by political agendas. The temporary efficacy of using a racial hoax to mislead law enforcement and the public has capitalized on and strengthened views about race and crime. All of these phenomena have served to solidify the stereotype of the young Black man as a criminal threat among the public in contemporary American society, which then fuels the practice of racial profiling by criminal justice officials. The prevalent typification of Blacks as criminals seems to justify law enforcement tactics that exploit race in criminal investigations. Only when criminal justice personnel recognize that the sources of these stereotypes are flawed or based on discriminatory practices themselves will the rationale for maintaining the unofficial policy and practice of racial profiling of criminals be negated. When the association between race and criminality ceases to be compelling, it will be apparent that racial profiling serves no useful purpose.”

    Can’t state it any better than Kelly Welch.

  • rrjkr

    Above all else, and in any case, the jurors are specifically instructed to base their findings, and ultimately the verdict delivered only on the facts of the case they have heard in the court room. I still maintain that the jury arrived at this verdict fairly based upon the facts that were presented and the judge’s instruction. If there were racially biased members of the jury who based their verdict on bigotry, then that is a condemnation of the whole jury,as other members would have noticed this during the deliberation, and should have reported this to the judge prior to delivering their verdict. I am certain that there were non-biased members of the jury, and have difficulty believing that they all skewed their vote just to appease the bigots. There most have been something else that caused them to arrive at this verdict. It will be interesting to hear what comes out.