One Body at a Time

by Michael Eric Dyson, March 14, 2014


Here is what we know: Michael Dunn got away with killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis: Dunn is a White man in his 40s; Davis was a Black teen. Dunn is alive. He still moves, breathes and expresses the simple present, though his being present among us now is anything but simple, complicated as it is by racial realities that transcend mere grammar—the privilege of being White and male for one, a privilege that carries a corollary privilege, too, namely, the right to carry a gun and kill who you damn well please, especially if he or she happens to be Black.

The fact that Davis was alive, the fact that he is now dead, silent, no longer able to induce White panic by breathing, expresses the simple past. But that past, too, is rendered inexpressibly complex by the pressures and burdens of race, not least of which is the misfortune of bearing the ready justification for our killing in our pigment. Perhaps it should come as no surprise in our nation’s twisted logic of race that, in his trial’s verdict, Dunn was held accountable for his failure to kill Davis’ compatriots that Aug. 23, 2012 night and, at least for the moment, he wasn’t made to answer for the most serious charge of all: Davis’ first-degree murder. If things stand, Michael Vick will have served 23 months more for a dogfighting conspiracy than Dunn will serve for killing an unarmed Black teen. That may grammatically express the future perfect, but it is hardly a future anyone except the most resolute racist would call perfect.

Read the remainder of this article in the April 2014 issue of EBONY Magazine.

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