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LEON: Jordan Davis, Another Victim of a Murderous Historical Continuum

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III | 2/19/2014, 3 p.m.
Wilmer Leon

“Can a Negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed into existence by the constitution of the United States…they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word “citizens” in the constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for…” — Chief Justice Roger Taney, Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857).

The verdict is in. Michael Dunn was found guilty on three counts of attempted second-degree murder but the jury failed to reach a verdict on the most significant charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jordan Davis.

Instead of celebrating what would have been his 19th birthday, Jordan Davis’ parents continue to mourn the legally unrecognized murder of their son. I can only imagine that this verdict is analogous to killing him again. Jordan Davis has become another victim of a murderous historical American continuum.

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder, the killings of Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009, Sean Bell on Nov. 26, 2006, Police Sgt. Cornel Young Jr. on Jan. 28, 2000, police officer Willie Wilkins on Jan. 11, 2001, Amadou Diallo on Feb. 4, 1999, and so many others we find ourselves coming to the same conclusion, by focusing on their color; people failed to see their humanity.

The subtext to all of these untimely deaths remains race. The subtext to the inability of juries to convict the George Zimmerman’s and Michael Dunn’s of the world of murder is tied to race as well. They are the most recent victims of a murderous historical American continuum. Tolnay and Beck in their book A Festival of Violence, “identified 2,805 victims of lynch mobs killed between 1882 and 1930 in ten southern states. Although mobs murdered almost 300 white men and women, the vast majority-almost 2,500-of lynch victims were African-American. The scale of this carnage means that, on average, a black man, woman, or child was murdered nearly once a week, every week, between 1882 and 1930 by a hate driven white mob.” Today, lynch mobs have been replaced by Zimmerman’s and Dunn’s and sanctioned by “Stand Your Ground” and “juries of their peers”.

As Africans in America and later African Americans, we have been engaged in a struggle for a very long time. Too many of us have forgotten what’s at the crux of the issue. Many believe it’s economic, others believe its civil rights. Both of those are important and play a significant role in improving our circumstance but what we’ve been fighting to have recognized since those first 20 and some odd “African indentured servants” disembarked from the Dutch Man O War off the shores of Jamestown, VA in 1619 (395 years ago)is to be considered human.

According to the Virginia Statutes on Slavery, Act 1, October 1669; what should be done about the casual killing of slaves? “If any slave resist his master and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, that his death shall not considered a felony, and the master should be acquitted from the molestation, since it cannot be presumed that prepense malice should induce any man to destroy his own estate.” We were property, not human — part of the estate.

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