The 'Dangerous Black Kids' hashtag is more heartbreaking than humorous

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.

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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. 

 

15 comments

  • I suspect they don't want to convict of murder because that would carry the death penalty as the sentence. Although, it seems good ole Florida's love of the death penalty doesn't usually extend as far as middle-class white guys...

    I am just absolutely stunned that this guy shot someone in cold blood because they swore at him. Seriously? He'd want to harden up. His comments that he was being 'threatened' beggars belief, and don't get me started on the rest of his comment. What an absolutely despicable excuse for a human being. The irony is of course, death penalty or no, he will most likely spend a good proportion of his remaining days incarcerated with the very people he believes to be somewhat sub-human, given the USA's penchant for imprisoning people of colour. Would it be too much to hope for that being at the coalface for a while might convince him of the error of his ways?

    Commenter
    Pink Peril
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    February 20, 2014, 9:57AM
    • This article shows a distinct lack of knowledge of the facts of the cases mentioned and/or an ignorance of the law.
      In the Zimmerman case, they were fighting at the time of the killing, Zimmerman's claim was that Martin was bashing his head into the ground. The fact that Zimmerman was following Martin is immaterial to the actual charge and defence. Was there reasonable doubt to claim self defence?
      According to the law, yes. Was it justice? Maybe not.

      In the Dunn case, he claimed they had a gun. a straight first degree murder charge was always going to be difficult to prove. And don't forget that he is still most likely going to jail for the rest of his life.

      Commenter
      Freddie Frog
      Date and time
      February 20, 2014, 10:04AM
      • So Zimmerman can use the 'stand your ground' defense, but Martin who was walking home and obviously knew he was being followed can't? Either Martin felt threatened and used self defense (I'd punch someone too if I was being followed) because he knew Zimmerman was following him or Zimmerman attacked him (I noticed you didn't mention who started the fight). If Zimmerman provoked him in anyway then legally he is culpable, it's not 'self defense' to start a fight you then feared for you're life in, it's assault.
        Stalking (following) is not 'immaterial' because not only does say a lot about the character of the defense but it also gives motive as to why Martin was hitting him.
        You seem to have a double standard. Either everyone can claim 'self defense' and 'stand you're ground' or nobody can. At the end of the day Zimmerman did the wrong thing FIRST by following a kid on his way back home from a candy store.

        Commenter
        Tia
        Date and time
        February 20, 2014, 5:02PM
    • This article does not tell the full story. The US dept of justice released figures in 2008 collected over 28 years indicating the African American's were responsible for over 50% of all homicides and yet were only 12% of the population.

      "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" That last comment is so ridiculous it's laughable. They do receive longer sentences - only by around 10% though.
      This doesn't explain why they are 300% overrepresented.

      Commenter
      Mick
      Date and time
      February 20, 2014, 10:14AM
      • "make up 40 percent of the prison population. And it’s not because they commit more crimes. "

        Say what? Is that how we're dealing with social inequality now - by simply denying it and blaming the stats on a racist justice system?

        Commenter
        John
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        February 20, 2014, 10:32AM
        • Fantastic piece, Ruby.
          I wonder how comparable to this things are in Australia…?

          Commenter
          Heisenberg
          Location
          thisaggression.wordpress.com
          Date and time
          February 20, 2014, 11:16AM
          • As a woman of black african descent living in Australia, I'd say that it's no where near as bad as it is in the states. However I know for a fact that if I was to do something bad/ commit a crime, what would be highlighted is that I am of African origin, and the closet racists would blame every single person that had any link to the continent. However if I was to do something good/noteworthy and any media highlighted the fact that I was of african origin, those same people would bitch about how everything is about race and that there is no reason to mention my heritage and that doing so is what is wrong with the "PC" world and that we are all Australian. So in essence what I am saying is that any bad deeds are mine and the people who descend from my continent and/or are the same race as me and my glory belongs to everyone but those from my continent and/race! Its fucked up, but after 27 and a half years of my nearly 28 years living here, I am mostly desensitized to it, as you sort of get used to the status quo. :(

            Commenter
            Boo hoo
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            February 20, 2014, 3:18PM
        • Seriously great work Ruby!

          Yes "The War on Drugs" and the Second Amendment are each inadvertently (but unsurprisingly) instruments of racial discrimination and (often lethal) conflict in the "anti-nation nation" which is the current United States.

          It's become an obscene parody of the nation it is supposed to be.

          Commenter
          GRW Dasign
          Location
          Abbotsford
          Date and time
          February 20, 2014, 11:59AM
          • Hi racists, I just want to save you all some time:

            1) There is no racism because Obama

            2) It's black people's fault for committing crimes at the same rates as other people

            3) Stop making everything about race, if you look hard enough you'll find incontrovertible evidence that proves that everyone is treated equally. I will not provide this information for you.

            4) Some non-white person looked at me funny! This is equivalent to several hundred years of institutional racism and proves that white people have nothing to answer for.

            5) When you tell me things that white society does, you're making me feel bad about being white! This is more important than injustice.

            6) Why can't I talk to funny coloured people the way they talk to each other?

            7) I do not like the rap and hip-hop music and culture that is purchased mostly by white people, who have the most purchasing power. This culture of criminality, that I bought for my child at Xmas, is why it's all the fault of black people.

            OK. Please carry on.

            Commenter
            was public now private
            Date and time
            February 20, 2014, 1:28PM
            • Perfect. Now do one about institutionalised sexism.

              Commenter
              Sigh
              Date and time
              February 20, 2014, 3:05PM

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