In November 2012, Jordan Davis and his friends were sitting in an SUV outside a Jacksonville, Fla., convenience store, listening to hip-hop, apparently rather loud. Michael Dunn, a White man, was parked beside them and complained about the volume. Then came an argument. And then, incensed, Michael Dunn pulled out a 9mm handgun. He shot into Jordan’s SUV several times, the vehicle with Jordan Davis sped off, and then Dunn stepped out of his own car and fired some more. Jordan Davis was killed.
Michael Dunn and his girlfriend drove to a hotel, and ordered a pizza. He didn’t report the shooting, and was tracked down only because someone recorded his license plate. Dunn told police he felt threatened by Davis, and thought the young Black boys had a gun. But no gun was found in Davis’s car. All because of a little hip-hop, which rubbed the wrong guy the wrong way.
Or maybe not? Is it possible that this is greater than music? Is it possible that Emmett’s whistle wasn’t about his whistle at all, but about the fear that boys like Emmett placed in the heart of those in his corner of the world? Is it possible that Trayvon Martin’s hoodie wasn’t about his hoodie, but the anxiety that Black teenagers in hoodies tend to create among those they encounter?
And maybe Jordan Davis’s case isn’t about rap music? Maybe it’s about a culture where a Black teenage life is still considered to be so cheap that it can be extinguished after a single gas-station confrontation?
Or maybe it’s all just… whistling. Who knows.