www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Holiday travel -12/19/2014, 10:16 AM

ALEC's starring role in the 'Wrecking Crew' -12/19/2014, 10:17 AM

Should profiling be banned? -12/19/2014, 10:06 AM

No right to misbehave -12/18/2014, 10:09 AM

Pompeo deserves thanks -12/18/2014, 10:00 AM

Executive orders -12/18/2014, 10:00 AM

Attack on Pearl Harbor -12/18/2014, 10:00 AM

Christ's role -12/18/2014, 9:59 AM

Governing vs. giving -12/18/2014, 9:58 AM

Adapting to change -12/17/2014, 10:30 AM

Brownback's 'vision' -12/17/2014, 10:30 AM

Young at heart -12/17/2014, 10:29 AM

Newman provides western Kansas education -12/17/2014, 10:29 AM

Big banks win again -12/16/2014, 9:37 AM

Securing the future of aerospace in Kansas -12/16/2014, 9:36 AM

The future with Brownback -12/16/2014, 9:36 AM

White Christmas, red Christmas -12/15/2014, 9:20 AM

A reason to celebrate -12/15/2014, 9:20 AM

Building a competitive opposition party -12/14/2014, 4:33 PM

Without religious freedom, there won't be peace -12/14/2014, 4:33 PM

Flying Hays later -12/14/2014, 4:33 PM

Allowing torture -12/12/2014, 10:11 AM

Racing to Lake Wobegone -12/12/2014, 10:10 AM

What's rule of law? -12/12/2014, 10:10 AM

Media bias -12/11/2014, 10:13 AM

It's not about race -12/11/2014, 10:12 AM

A new civil war -12/11/2014, 10:12 AM

Climate catastrophe -12/11/2014, 10:12 AM

The case of Scott Panetti -12/10/2014, 10:14 AM

Word origins -12/10/2014, 10:14 AM

Kansas will bleed -12/10/2014, 10:13 AM

Minions' mess -12/10/2014, 10:13 AM

Prescription farmers -12/10/2014, 10:12 AM

Vaccines make sense -12/9/2014, 11:02 AM

Net neutrality -12/9/2014, 8:45 AM

Tell me it isn't so? -12/9/2014, 2:53 PM

Willing to do without -12/9/2014, 8:45 AM

KDOT funding -12/9/2014, 8:45 AM

The man elected -12/8/2014, 10:00 AM

Understanding white privilege -12/8/2014, 10:00 AM

Making sure crime doesn't pay -12/8/2014, 10:00 AM

Do Kansans really care? -12/7/2014, 3:17 PM

Core freedoms under fire -12/7/2014, 3:17 PM

Nation needs new approach -12/6/2014, 3:17 PM

Tons of fun on tap -12/5/2014, 9:48 AM

A Christmas plea -12/5/2014, 9:48 AM

School privatization via convenient debt -12/5/2014, 9:48 AM

Race in America -12/4/2014, 10:20 AM

The gift of petroleum -12/4/2014, 10:20 AM

A Charlie Brown Christmas miracle -12/4/2014, 10:19 AM

Care and feeding of farm animals -12/3/2014, 10:19 AM

Let's talk about 'black on black' crime -12/3/2014, 10:19 AM

Sports complex -12/3/2014, 4:14 PM

-12/3/2014, 10:00 AM

Kudos to school for bilingual efforts -12/2/2014, 11:42 AM

Wages prompting county workers to seek better jobs -12/2/2014, 11:42 AM

County employees urge public's support -12/2/2014, 11:42 AM

'Horrible Bosses 2' disappoints;  new 'Star Wars' trailer thrills -12/2/2014, 10:19 AM

Power rests with House speaker -12/2/2014, 10:01 AM

Climate change -12/2/2014, 10:38 AM

Ferguson's pain -12/1/2014, 10:21 AM

Out of sight, or out of luck? -12/1/2014, 10:20 AM

Blacks, whites need to wake up to injustice -12/1/2014, 10:20 AM

Kansas turns South -11/30/2014, 5:33 PM

When should holy days become holidays? -11/30/2014, 5:33 PM

Future of health care -11/30/2014, 5:33 PM

Giving thanks -11/27/2014, 3:08 PM

Give a child hope and a home -11/26/2014, 9:12 AM

Holiday shopping -11/26/2014, 9:12 AM

Today's faults -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

Meatless Mondays -- forget about it -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

Cosby, serial rapist? That's a lot to forgive -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

Letting it fly -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

KanCare oversight -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

Giving thanks for blessings as Kansans -11/25/2014, 10:11 AM

Local fixes to local problems? -11/25/2014, 10:11 AM

Energy security -11/25/2014, 10:11 AM

Elite contempt for ordinary Americans -11/24/2014, 9:12 AM

Pipeline politics -11/24/2014, 10:04 AM

They killed Peter Kassig -11/24/2014, 10:04 AM

Going from bad to good on election night -11/23/2014, 6:38 PM

Free Speech can be shield or a sword -11/23/2014, 6:38 PM

Dodge City merger -11/22/2014, 6:38 PM

House mis-speaker -11/21/2014, 9:50 AM

Obama vs. Us -11/21/2014, 9:50 AM

Really smart conservatives love public debt -11/21/2014, 9:50 AM

Official welcome -11/20/2014, 9:52 AM

Control freaks in the U.S. -11/20/2014, 1:24 PM

How did we get here? -11/20/2014, 9:52 AM

An open letter to the GOP -11/19/2014, 10:03 AM

Successful farming -11/19/2014, 10:03 AM

Getting personal -11/18/2014, 9:15 AM

Teachers, not facilities -11/18/2014, 9:15 AM

Schoolteachers and the Legislature -11/18/2014, 9:06 AM

Water vision -11/18/2014, 9:06 AM

I see wonderful things -11/17/2014, 9:26 AM

Politics prevail over truth in Kansas elections -11/17/2014, 9:26 AM

Progress at mall -11/16/2014, 5:22 PM

Opinions on the general election -11/16/2014, 5:22 PM

Why are schools afraid of freedom? -11/16/2014, 5:22 PM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

White fear trumps black life

Published on -3/5/2014, 9:57 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

"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, Ind.

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 officially was 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 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 recently. Davis was the black kid shot dead by a white man, Michael Dunn, at a gas station in Jacksonville, Fla., 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 ever was 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 fiancee, who was inside the convenience store when the shooting started, said 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?

The jury's inability to hold him accountable for Davis' death only validates African-Americans' grimmest misgivings about the "just us" system. Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor at Rutgers University, put it as follows on Twitter: "This is not just about jail time. This is about whether white fear legally means more than black life."

It is an observation pregnant with painful truth, truth that already was old in 1930 when Shipp and Smith were butchered.

Dunn decided Davis was -- his word -- a "thug" and shot him. And we've seen this movie so many times before. George Zimmerman decided Trayvon Martin was a thug and stalked him. New York police decided Amadou Diallo was a thug and shot him. And so on.

These decisions are made independent of anything a man actually is -- or does. They are made on sight, out of the same impulse that finds African-Americans committing a minority of drug crimes but doing, in some jurisdictions, 90 percent of drug time. They are made, in a word, in fear, the unspoken but clear recognition black boys and men are our national boogeymen -- they threaten by existing -- and therefore it is ... understandable if occasionally one gets shot by accident.

If Davis had been a white kid in an SUV full of the same playing their music too loudly, does anyone really think the confrontation with Dunn would have escalated to the point of gunfire? And if for some reason it had, is anyone so naive as to believe the jury would have failed to convict Dunn of murder?

But Dunn, unlike the killers of Shipp and Smith -- and Martin and Diallo -- is at least going to jail for something, right? Indeed, at 47, he might spend the rest of his life behind bars. And yes, you could call that progress.

But you could call it some other things, too.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist

for the Miami Herald.

lpitts@miamiherald.com

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News