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Black Boys Under the Gun

Writing at Ebony [6], Darnell L. Moore says that the latest shooting death of a Florida teen, Jordan Davis, reminds us once again of the unique challenges facing our young men.

A day after the Thanksgiving holiday, seventeen-year old Jordan Russell Davis was shot by a 45-year old assailant, Michael David Dunn. Dunn claims that he unloaded his gun into a vehicle full of teens out of “self-defense” after stopping the youths to order them to turn their music down. Davis was Black. Dunn is White. You can read details about the shooting here …

This case, like so many others, heartbreakingly evidences what happens when some White men encounter Black boys and, undoubtedly, Black people. Indeed, the violent and unsettling scenes now captured in our minds — that of Black boys dying in friends’ arms or on cold cement walkways from bullet wounds — are precipitated by some other scenes in the minds of many White people: mental pictures of the suspicious and presumed violent young and old Black male who is imagined as the embodiment of terror and brute strength. In the minds of some, our very being provokes mistrust: just ask President Barack Hussein Obama.

But we are not the problem.

No, the problem is actually the deep commitment to the racialized fears that we allow to shape our responses to others. University of Pennsylvania professor John L. Jackson rightly names this type of obsession, “racial paranoia.” Thus, the problem is the racism that fixes negative images of Black folk in the minds of others before we encounter each other in the physical world. The real problem is the reality that such race-based paranoia might easily precipitate death.

The bullets of prejudice and bias and structural racism that are aimed at Black boys and men way before metal bullets are shot from a White man’s gun should be the focus of our concern …



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