Defendant Michael Dunn reacts on the stand during testimony in his own defense during his murder trial in Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida February 11, 2014.

Defendant Michael Dunn reacts on the stand during testimony in his own defense during his murder trial in Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida February 11, 2014. Photo: POOL

Every 28 hours, a black person in America is killed by police or security guards, or vigilantes.

Over the weekend, the Florida trial of one of those vigilantes, Michael Dunn, the 47 year old white man who shot and killed 17 year old Jordan Davis as the unarmed teenager sat in a parked car with three friends, resulted in a hung jury.

Black Americans are simply perceived to be far more dangerous than they actually are. And this false perception has deadly consequences. 

Although the jurors found Dunn guilty of four counts of attempted murder (he fired 10 rounds into the car after the kids refused to turn down their “thug” music), they could not reach a verdict on the murder charge.

Dunn had pleaded not guilty on all counts, citing Florida’s contentious Stand Your Ground law, claiming he was afraid for his life.

None of the teenagers in the car were armed.

So what made Dunn fear for his life? In a nutshell, the myth of the Dangerous Black Man.

African-Americans form 13.1 percent of the US population but make up 40 percent of the prison population. And it’s not because they commit more crimes. Blacks are just more likely to incarcerated and they receive longer sentences. Most offenders are in prison for non-violent offenders, including drug-related crimes. Even though blacks sell and use drugs at the same rate as whites, they are 3 to 5 times more likely to be arrested. 

Black Americans are simply perceived to be far more dangerous than they actually are. And this false perception has deadly consequences.

As Salon’s Brittney Cooper writes:

“Many white folks believe that black criminality has produced white fear and that white fear in the presence of black masculinity is therefore always justified. But the opposite is true. White anxiety and fear and racism have produced the myth of pervasive black criminality. Interracial black violence is a problem, but white racism has produced the concentrated structures of poverty and lack of access to education that give rise to violent behaviors. 

Our national inability to tell the truth about this will only lead to more black victims.” 

Last year, outrage over the acquittal of George Zimmerman after he shot and killed another unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, spawned nation-wide protests. I was in New York during that city’s large rally the day after the verdict was announced. I spoke with protestors who feared that the justice system had just declared “open season on black people.”

This is something many white Americans seem unable to grasp. Black people feel their lives could be in danger every time they step outside their house. "We've never been safe here,” Renata Ferdinand, a young black woman told me. "This just exemplifies it."

They have reason to worry. Since the Zimmerman verdict, there have been numerous examples of black people being killed because their skin colour supposedly makes others feel afraid.

Jonathan Ferrell was shot and killed by a white police officer following a car accident in North Carolina. Ferrell had sought help by knocking on a nearby house, the woman inside responded by calling the police. 

Just months later, 19-year-old Renisha McBride was shot in the face by Theodore Wafer in Detroit, Michigan. She had knocked on his door one morning shortly after she had crashed her car. 

Following the Dunn mistrial, and as a response to above -and other- killings, Twitter lit up with the sarcastic hashtag #DangerousBlackKids, as people posted pictures of their children simply living. 

There are pictures of babies in animal onsies, brothers hugging each other and grinning into the camera as they display their birthday party goodies, and toddlers sucking on pacifiers.

#DangerousBlackKids is heartbreaking because it demonstrates that black people live with the knowledge that their children could be next.

 “It does some thing awful to your spirit to constantly have to insist on your humanity, and the humanity of those you love,” wrote blogger Mikki Kendall. “To be part of a community so frequently demonized, in refutation of documented history and current events, is to be forced to fight for your life and the lives of strangers constantly.”

"#DangerousBlackKids is a reminder to ourselves that we will never be the monsters society would like us to be.”

As for Michael Dunn, he is looking at 60 years in prison. If you find it incongruous that a jury could convict him for the attempted murders of the teenagers he tried to kill, while failing to reach a verdict on the death of the one he did kill, you are not alone. The hung jury led author and professor Angel Ards to write on her Facebook page, “The illogical logic of this verdict is the White male was found guilty of missing three Black boys and innocent of the actual killing of an actual innocent boy.”

In phone calls to his fiancée, Dunn compared himself to a rape victim:

“I was the one that was being preyed upon and I fought back…it made me think of like the old TV shows and movies where like how the police used to think when a chick got raped going, “Oh, it’s her fault because of the way she dressed.” I’m like, “So it’s my fault (laughing) because I asked them to turn their music down.”

He has also shown no remorse:

“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 fucking idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.”

To recap, Dunn felt “threatened” because the teenagers refused to turn down their music when he told them to. They swore at him so he shot at them, killing one.

This is privilege in a nutshell. White fear trumps black life. To the Dunn’s of this world, occupying public space whilst black is regarded as a provocation worthy of death.

 And every 28 hours, a black person is killed in America.