Workers Vanguard No. 1042
21 March 2014
Florida: The Killing of Jordan Davis
The Dunn Verdict and Racist America
On February 15, a Florida jury reaffirmed that black life in America is cheap. Michael Dunn, a white racist thug, had come to trial for firing repeatedly into a car with four black youths inside and killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis. The jury found Dunn guilty of the attempted murder of the three who survived his rampage. But it deadlocked over whether the killing of Davis was murder, as three jurors embraced Dunn’s pretense that this coldblooded shooting was self-defense. The message was unmistakable: If Dunn had killed everyone in the car, he likely would not have been convicted on a single count. His sentencing is now postponed until after his retrial, which is slated to begin in May.
There was no ambiguity about what happened. Davis and his friends were listening to hip-hop in an SUV outside a convenience store in Jacksonville, Florida. Dunn drove up and parked beside them. After his fiancée went to buy chips and wine, Dunn demanded that Davis and his friends turn down the music. When they refused, Dunn took a 9mm pistol from his glove compartment and fired three shots that hit Davis in the SUV. As Davis’s friend Tommie Storns drove the SUV away, Dunn again fired on it. Business accomplished, Dunn went to his hotel room, where he ordered a pizza and chilled with a rum and coke. Jordan Davis’s anguished father declared after the trial that killing his son “was not just another day at the office.”
Dunn claimed that Davis threatened him and that he fired his pistol only after seeing Davis brandish a shotgun. No shotgun was found. Dunn’s fiancée testified that he never mentioned a weapon being pulled on him. In fact, Dunn’s defense was unsupported by any evidence other than his white skin. If the shooter had been black and the car filled with white teens blasting Lynyrd Skynyrd’s segregationist anthem “Sweet Home Alabama,” the outcome would not have been a hung jury but rather the gallows. Florida has been second only to Texas in carrying out racist legal lynchings in the last three years.
Dunn clearly was looking for an opportunity to mete out KKK-style “justice” to black youth who “dissed” him. He murdered Davis and nearly killed three others for crossing a line dating back to slavery, punishable by the lash and later the lynch rope. In so doing, Dunn was following in the footsteps of the greatest perpetrators of violence against the black population—the capitalist state and its killer cops for whom terrorizing black youth is just another day at the office. One witness reported hearing Dunn tell the teens, “You are not going to talk to me like that.” From his jail cell, Dunn wrote his family: “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.”
Davis’s shooting recalls the racist vigilante killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012. Dunn was even prosecuted by the same team that let Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, walk free. As we noted in a leaflet issued after Zimmerman was acquitted last July: “It wasn’t that the prosecution didn’t have a case. The truth is that this wasn’t their field of expertise, which is railroading black people to prison” (WV No. 1028, 9 August 2013).
What the prosecutors are pursuing with a passion is the relentless persecution of Marissa Alexander, a black mother in her 30s. Alexander was sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot into a wall when threatened by her husband, who had previously beaten her so badly she had to be hospitalized. An appeals court ordered a new trial. Now prosecutor Angela Corey—who was in charge of both Zimmerman and Dunn’s prosecutions—is seeking to increase Alexander’s sentence from 20 to 60 years!
“Stand Your Ground”: Open Season on Blacks
Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which set the backdrop for the killings of Martin and Davis, provides a license for vigilante murder. Passed in 2005 amid a campaign to “get tough on crime”—code for targeting black people—the Florida law became the model for similar laws in 22 other states, including all of the former Confederacy except Arkansas and Virginia. It supplanted an earlier Florida statute that required a person under attack to try to remove himself from immediate danger before using deadly force in self-defense.
Instead, Stand Your Ground allows for the use of deadly force by anyone who claims a “reasonable belief” that such force is necessary, without any attempt to disengage. And in this country, a young black man playing loud music or wearing a hoodie is enough for someone to claim “reasonable belief.” A 2013 study by the Urban Institute documented that in states with Stand Your Ground laws, shootings of black victims by whites are 281 percent more likely to be ruled justified than if the victims are white.
Democratic Party liberals and black politicians have attempted to steer outrage over Stand Your Ground into various gun control schemes. Such measures are a means of enforcing a monopoly of violence for the capitalist state, leaving guns in the hands of cops, criminals and racist vigilantes while the rest of the population is defenseless. The result is to make attacks like those on Martin and Davis more likely. Indeed, if Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis had been armed, they might still be alive today—although they would most likely be in prison.
Founded and maintained on a bedrock of black oppression, the American capitalist system paints targets on the backs of young black men and women. Zimmerman’s acquittal last July was followed by a rapid succession of racist atrocities. On September 14, Jonathan Farrell, a 24-year-old former college football star, was gunned down by a North Carolina cop while seeking assistance after a car wreck. On September 17, an appeals court tossed out the murder convictions of five New Orleans cops who killed two unarmed black men on Danziger Bridge during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Following an accident on November 2, 19-year-old Renisha McBride found herself on the porch of a white man in Dearborn, Michigan, who shot her dead.
The vilification of black youth seen every day in the press, on TV and on the Internet provides fertile soil for scum like Dunn. In the lead-up to the last Super Bowl, Seattle Seahawks’ black defensive back Richard Sherman was denounced as a “thug” for being brash and outspoken. A Stanford graduate, Sherman perceptively observed that “thug” is “the accepted way of calling someone the N-word nowadays.” Dunn himself ranted against “thug music,” according to his fiancée.
The omnipresent targeting of black youth through both legal repression and extralegal terror is endemic to American capitalism. In New York City, newly elected mayor Bill de Blasio rode into office vowing to rein in the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” racial profiling program that ensnared hundreds of thousands in its web over the past decade. Although the number of stops has dropped sharply, arrests for so-called crimes such as public drinking and begging in the subways have skyrocketed.
The multiracial working class is the only force with the social power and class interests to get rid of the system of capitalist exploitation in which the mass of the black population is forcibly segregated at the bottom. As our leaflet on Zimmerman’s acquittal stated:
“It took a bloody Civil War, the Second American Revolution, with 200,000 black troops, guns in hand, to smash the chains of black chattel slavery. But the promise of black freedom was soon betrayed by the Northern bourgeoisie, which allied with the Southern propertied classes against the aspirations of the black freedmen. It will take a third American Revolution—a proletarian socialist revolution that breaks the chains of capitalist wage slavery—to finish the Civil War.”
Then, and only then, will there be a measure of justice for Davis, Martin and the countless other victims of racist terror.