When people like Ted Nugent use racist slurs like “subhuman mongrel” and “gangster” to refer to black people (in this case, President Obama), they’re not just speaking out of their ass into a vacuum. It’s not just time to be offended that someone said something offensive, sputter some profanities about the rightwingers and then forget. We should not miss the connection between these racist words and images used to describe and malign People of Color and the political, economic, and judicial policies and practices that target People of Color. Nugent is not just saying that a black man is a “subhuman mongrel,” he’s communicating honest-to-goodness violence against all People of Color – a highly effective communicative tool not lost on a good amount of White US citizens – like a few of our troll commenters here at this page. As we talked about earlier this week, the case of Dunn V Davis is proof of this as one fourth of the jury agreed with Nugent and Dunn that black people are less-than-human.
The jury was hung. If Michael Dunn hadn’t shot three times into an escaping vehicle after the six shots where he killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis – who was, let’s be clear, sitting in a car and clearly not a danger to Dunn’s life – he would have walked like George Zimmerman before him. And like Zimmerman, he created the confrontation then decided to use deadly force and, also like Zimmerman before him, he was able to use the blackness of his victims as a case for his innocence and their imminent threat. Dunn and Zimmerman also shared the fact that their killing activities were not on trial. No, their victims were. The essence of their victims’ innocence was up on trial. And in both cases, the law was set up where jurors felt it was their obligation to release the assaulters. In both cases, the law and the jury ultimately said that the blackness of the victims was more of a threat than lethal force committed by their assailants.
Let’s review the details of Dunn’s confrontation with Davis and the other three young men:
White middle aged man parks his car in a Jacksonville gas station next to a car full of black youth – Tommie Stornes, Leland Brunson, Tevin Thompson, and Jordan Davis. They were there first. But while Dunn’s girlfriend goes inside, he tells the young men to turn down their “thug” music. Thug music is music of, by, and for thugs, apparently. But really, “thug” is another word for “black.” For the kids were listening to kid music, the same type of music white kids consume and keep afloat. Davis vocally rejected Dunn’s orders. Orders. That’s what Dunn told the police the next day. “They defied my orders. What was I supposed to do if they wouldn’t listen?” What the white man felt he was supposed to do was retrieve a gun out of his glove compartment. Because to him, these were “subhuman mongrels” who dared defy his whiteness.
You know what’s scary? Up to this point, all of this is perfectly legal.
While the high schoolers look on in shock and fuddle to begin the car, Dunn proceeds to shoot Jordan Davis full of lead through his car.
Terrifyingly, up to this point, Dunn still has a case. Listen to this: it is up to the prosecutors to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Mr. Dunn did not fear for his life or well-being. All he had to do was convince a couple of jurors that he could have been fearful of a car full of black teenaged males. This is our hung jury. Because Dunn and Nugent are not alone in thinking that black people are not fully human.
Dunn continues to shoot into the car and at the other passengers as well, just missing them as they manage to drive off. Still, he can and does claim self-defense.
Self-defense from what? Davis and Thompson and Stornes and Brunson were cruising for flirts, not looking for fights. They were doing what kids do – hanging out and trying to stave off boredom. Because they are human beings in an adolescent world. But because of White Supremacy, their very bodies are deemed “dangerous.”
So far, all of this is perfectly legal. And perfectly immoral and unjust. Even under what we consider barbaric biblical laws, this is not “Eye for an eye.” This is “I will rupture your lungs with bullets for talking back.” This is “Murder for an insult.” And the fact that Michael Dunn was not found guilty of First Degree Murder for this tells us what kind of a Gun Culture we have here and what kind of a Racist Culture we have. The fact that Davis’ life is not worth a second thought to Michael Dunn or the Stand Your Ground laws – or its various supporters such as the trolls populating roughly 200 comments in the last article I wrote on this travesty of justice; the fact that Trayvon Martin is still, to this day, considered a thug and lied about, his name tossed in the mud as if he were somehow deserving of being murdered by the fact that he was male, black, and a teenager (who did teenager things sometimes); the fact that CNN gives George Zimmerman coverage to whine about his loss of privacy while he continues to assault women and seek out celebrity boxing matches; and the fact that a full quarter of the Dunn jury were convinced that Dunn was acting in self-defense when he murdered Davis: these all point out that something is seriously wrong with our society. That segments of the population are specifically and intentionally treated as “subhuman mongrels.”
As law professor Paul Campos points out, it’s hard if not impossible to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Dunn feared great bodily harm in this parking lot. But it’s truly impossible to believe this when jurors believe the White Supremacy lie – that non-white kids are dangerous. That’s the lie put forth by US media, the lie supported by US politicians, the lie aggravated by ALEC and the NRA and the laws they support.
Pour these factors onto a growing body of evidence that whenever the law allows for excessive use of force, that force is used excessively against minorities and women. In a country where rape charges are rarely investigated and where the victims of rape and domestic violence are often blamed for being on the receiving end of the stick; one where the so-called War on Drugs incarcerates black men at a rate of three times as much as their population (and Latinos fare not much better) while white men (who use and handle drugs at the same rates) half of their rates; where women are much more likely to be shot at or killed by their significant others than a stranger – yet the insistence is that lethal weapons are kept at home to protect woman from strangers; where Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than other races, and where 70% of violence against American Indian victims is done by non-Indians. In fact, these are reasons why the Violence Against Women Act needed to be reformed last year – and the same reasons Republicans fought so hard against the little changes – because women and Natives are viewed as “subhuman mongrels.”
There are many complex factors to figure in regards to protection. It is reasonable and right to want to protect ourselves – but we should ask, “Protect from what? From whom?” Sometimes our very worst enemies come from those who sell us fear and animosity (ALEC, for instance) and burrow themselves within. Both US law and US society are far more protective of white males than People of Color, women, or transgender people. And that needs to turn around if we are to move our country forward in the right direction. Because their humanity is worth more than whatever Ted Nugent or hung juries could ever possibly ascribe or imagine.
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