In 2012, a white man named Michael Dunn fired ten shots into a car of unarmed Black teenagers outside a convenience store in Jacksonville, Florida because they were playing loud “thug music,” and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis. This weekend, on the eve of what would have been Davis’s 19th birthday, Dunn was convicted of attempted murder of the other teens, but the jury failed to reach a decision on the murder charge and the judge declared a mistrial.
You should watch our own Mychal Denzel Smith talk about the burden of living in a young Black male body on the MHP Show. Read Ta-nehisi Coates on how “the irrelevance of black life has been drilled into this country since its infancy” and Tamura A. Lomax on the righteous rage of Black mothers. Have your heart broken by the #DangerousBlackKids hashtag that’s popped up on Twitter. And definitely read Stacia L. Brown’s powerful piece called “We Have Known Boys (But None Have Been Bullet-Proof).”
I have known black boys, known them in airless classrooms where the scent of their too-strong cologne worked overtime masking the cling of their sweat to skin and hormones. And I have known their scratching, grabbing, tugging at the belt loops of too-big pants, have involuntarily memorized the plaids and imprints on their boxers.
I have known boys like underripe fruit, a pit of eventual sweetness at the core of them, encased in a bitter pulp, toughening from too little tending or underexposure to light. I have watched them become principles in death when they were not finished learning what it would mean to be principled in life.
I have known them nursing dreams with slimming odds of realization, heard them reasoning with the wardens behind their private walls, scraping at the doors some white man’s stubborn shoulder intended to force closed.
Listen. You have heard them, smelled them, touched them, too. Groping boys. Maddening boys. Boys who, had they the luxury of longer lives, would grow to regret how they treated girls, how they dodged their daughters or fought the smallest dudes on the yard.
Had they lived, they would’ve shuffled home, hats in hand, hugged their mamas, clapped their daddies’ shoulders, nodded like men who understood remorse, who’d been leveled by regret and learned to talk about it.
Had they lived, they would’ve borne enough concussions to concede their desire for millions at the the expense of unscathed minds. And maybe they would’ve been Marines like Jordan Davis hoped he might be, maybe aviators like Trayvon envisioned himself or husbands like Jonathan Ferrell and Sean Bell were so close to becoming. Maybe they would’ve grown to guess that the cost of longer life was a hunching of one’s height at a white woman’s door, a soft knock rather than the screams that often escape the frantic or crowded or injured. Maybe they would’ve conceived children with women with whom they couldn’t bear to live — and all over again, they would find themselves having to grow, to lean toward a quickly dimming light and to become tender when it was far more tempting to coarsen.
Read the rest here.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.