Thursday, November 23, 2017
Opinion

Another victim of black blindness?

RECOMMENDED READING


Call it black blindness.

It is a kind of myopia that afflicts some of us — too many of us — whenever we gaze upon a dark-skinned man. It causes some of us — too many of us — to see things that are not there, and to miss things that are. Sometimes it is fatal.

Such was the case for Amadou Diallo, the African immigrant who died in a hailstorm of gunfire in 1999 after police mistook his wallet for a gun.

We cannot yet know if black blindness was the cause of death for Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old black kid who was killed the night after Thanksgiving. But there is reason to suspect it was. Davis was shot by a 45-year-old white man, Michael David Dunn, who says he saw a rifle. At this writing, police have recovered no such weapon.

The altercation began with an argument in a gas station in Jacksonville. Dunn had pulled in so his girlfriend could go to the convenience store. Davis and three other teenagers were in an SUV next to him playing their music too loudly. Dunn told them to turn it down. An argument ensued. Dunn's attorney, Robin Lemonidis, says the teenagers peppered him with obscenities and insults. Then, she says, Davis poked a rifle through an open window, threatened her client and began to open the door of the SUV. Dunn reached for his pistol and came up firing. The SUV peeled out. Dunn kept shooting at it because, his lawyer says, he feared that the teenagers might come back after him.

"There is no racial motivation here whatsoever," she told the New York Times. But even if you buy that, Dunn's story still has holes in it you could drive a shot-up SUV through.

Consider: Someone's got a gun trained on you, about to shoot, yet you have time to reach for your glove box, open it, unholster your own weapon and bring it up? Not even Little Joe Cartwright was that fast on the draw.

Then there's the fact that afterward, Dunn and his girlfriend went to a hotel. You've been threatened, you had to shoot to save your life … and you go to a hotel? You don't alert authorities about this SUV full of dangerous kids roaming the streets?

Dunn, says Lemonidis, did not realize he had killed Davis until he saw the news the following morning. Yet he still did not contact authorities, instead driving home to Satellite Beach, about 175 miles south, intending to turn himself in to a neighbor who has law enforcement ties. Police, who had gotten his license plate number from witnesses, soon arrived to arrest him.

So Dunn's story is shaky without the overlay of race.

With it, and with the obvious comparisons to the killing of Trayvon Martin, one can only wonder if black blindness has not claimed yet another victim. That is a danger all over the country, but particularly in Florida, whose misbegotten "stand your ground" law essentially licenses any citizen to use deadly force against any other citizen as long as the first claims he or she felt threatened.

Sure enough, Lemonidis is considering just such a defense for her client.

The frightening thing, if you are a young African-American man, is that you know nothing makes some folks feel more "threatened" than you. Nor do you threaten by doing. You threaten by being. You threaten by existing. Such is the invidious result of four centuries of propaganda in which every form of malfeasance, bestiality and criminality is blamed on you.

In such an environment Florida's law inevitably becomes a potential "Get Out of Jail Free" card for anyone who shoots a young black man. So this death, besides being a tragedy for the grieving family of one boy, is a sobering reminder for the family of every boy who looks like him.

And until or unless there is a definitive answer, they — we — must ponder with heartsick urgency one simple question: What did Michael Dunn really see, and why?

© 2012 Miami Herald

 
Comments

Another voice: Wall isnít a lifesaver, itís a boondoggle

The first stage of President Donald Trumpís controversial border wall project ended last week, while the prospects for any more construction ó and even what type of wall ó remain uncertain.A Border Patrol agent was killed and his partner seriously wo...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nationís budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more ó s...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nationís highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: Trump does the right thing for elephants; he shouldnít back down now

There is bad timing, and then there is this. Last week, an apparent military coup placed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in custody, ushering in a new period of political uncertainty. A few days later, the Trump administration announced that Zimba...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/22/17
Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

From birth to death, opioid addiction is ravaging the lives of thousands of Floridians. Drugmakers, doctors, state lawmakers and insurance companies all have a role to play in slowing the epidemic. Lately some more responsible answers, including mill...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/21/17

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "Iím pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: A time for real thanksgiving

Editorial: A time for real thanksgiving

By now the guest list if not the table is all set, and the house will be warmed with the noise of loved ones and the smell of that dish with cream of mushroom soup. Tucked between the sugar rush of Halloween and the sparkle of Christmas, Thanksgiving...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/22/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17