I remember all too well how I felt when the verdict for George Zimmerman was announced. In my mind, I remember thinking to myself that this man got away with murder. He killed an unarmed black teen-ager because, for all intents and purposes, during the course of confronting this teen-ager, the teen-ager somehow got the best of him forcing Zimmerman to shoot and kill him. The teen-ager would still be alive if George Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle as he had been instructed to do by the police dispatcher.
And now, fast forward one year and we are in almost the exact same predicament. A white man kills another black teen only this time, it wasn’t out of self-defense. It appears as if Michael Dunn felt as if he were somehow disrespected because he told the occupants of a red SUV to turn off their “rap crap” and was immediately called a bunch of names including but not limited to, “b**ch” and “cracker.” And because of this, Mr. Dunn retrieved a firearm and fired ten rounds from his nine millimeter hand gun into that SUV, striking and killing one of the occupants. He was convicted of three counts of attempted second degree murder that adds up to at least sixty years in prison.
But my issue with the scenario isn’t so much the verdict even though that will be the topic of conversation for years to come as it is with the mentality of Michael Dunn. Why did he think that it was okay to pull out a gun and shoot at a vehicle full of black youths in the first place? The incident took place in front of a convenience store. How long would he have hadto endure the loud music that he found intolerable? It seems to me that the issue at hand isn’t the sad outcome of this altercation as much as it is the state of mind of some white men in this country.
I, personally, am not a big fan of gangsta rap music or the subsequent mentality that is associated with people that listen to it. But simply because I don’t like it doesn’t give me the right to deny anyone the right to enjoy it.
With that being said, it seems that like George Zimmerman, Michael Dunn somehow thought that his rights were being violated. And the subsequent bigger picture is that perhaps millions of white people across this country feel the exact same way. I say this in fairness when I also state that not all white men subscribe to the same ideology that Michael Dunn adheres to. In some ways, some white men feel that the advancement of African American people translates to a threat to the social standing and well-being of the white race. It is almost as if in this day in age, young black men have taken the credo of black pride and morphed it into a “take-no-prisoners-I’m-gonna-get-mine-by-any-means-necessary” type of mentality.
What they fail to realize is that there is not a threat against white people. Black people have struggled all their lives for what advances have been gained towards true equality in this so-called land of the free.
Tea Party extremists would like to see a return to the days where white people ruled and kept a steady hand on the advancement of black people, returning to an age where the common terminology for blacks was “colored.” Allegedly, college educated whites are feeling the sting of inequality as they look at the country being led by an African American leader. Some may deem that we may have taken our goals too far and that we need to be reminded of our true place in society if indeed there ever was one.
Sadly, this incident is a grim reminder that man has an innate need to feel a measure of superiority to his fellow man. As unfortunate as this statement may be, it may explain a lot of our history as a nation. To this date, the “ghetto” has morphed into tolerable living conditions (contingent upon what part of this country you are in), and yet the occupants of these neighborhoods are still predominately Black and Latino. Very rarely will you see a ghetto neighborhood where the residents are predominately white. This isn’t to say that they don’t exist, but they are far and few between.
Still, if you visit any major corporation in the United States and stand to the sidelines, you will see business meetings being convened where the attendees are predominately white. By business meetings, I am not referring to the meetings convened by managerial leadership that want to implement rules and strategies to keep the people that occupy the entry level positions focused. This would be considered a staff meeting. Instead, I am talking about the business meetings for the bosses of those fortunate few that occupy the leadership roles within any given organization. This would be considered a board meeting.
Now as I say this, you may think that there are no African Americans in positions of leadership; that there are no corporate heads of color enjoying the rewards and fruits of their labor. I’m not saying this at all. What I am saying is that those at the top are disproportionate to the ones at the bottom, and in this day in age, most positions of authority are white occupied.
So first and foremost, how far have race relations come in thirty years? How much have we truly changed as a people and will we ever see a time when there will be no hatred or bigotry? Honestly I doubt it, because the simple reality of how we are as a people is that we truly do live in an age where someone has to be rich and someone has to be poor; and along with that comes the obvious justification of who is deserving of wealth and who is not. Some people would like to believe that the way that they live is right while others whose cultures do not mirror their own are wrong. Further justification of this is to limit opportunities for equal advancement and then blame the culture for not having the knowledge, wisdom or foresight to achieve it. This is not to say that significant strides have not been made by African Americans. (1) But this is also not the norm for the average African American.
I cannot subscribe to the ideology of “white rage.” As an African American man, it’s simply too hard for me to understand. Things cannot remain status quo. Everyone has the right to live, love and prosper. Everyone has a right to leave a legacy to their children. This is not a byproduct of being white, but a right that everyone is entitled to…at least this is what I gleaned from the writings in the Declaration of Independence.
What we need to understand is that until true equality has been achieved by all, we will always have to endure the loss of life and freedom from both sides of the racial lines.
~ J.L. Whitehead
(1) Top Twenty African American CEO’s in business today. http://www.benzinga.com/general/entrepreneurship/13/03/3413569/the-top-2...