Some kids were listening to music in a car when a white man took issue with, well, their existence. And he was armed, and he was in Florida though let us not confuse Michael Dunn’s murder of Jordan Davis for a Florida anomaly.
I listen to music loudly in my car all the time. I used to worry about doing this. Like, I thought, will people think I am “stereotypical” for doing this? And then I thought, “Why would I be ashamed of being “stereotypical”?” And “what the fuck is stereotypical?” And this sort of interrogation is one I regularly put myself through. What will “white people” think if I do X, Y, or Z? I don’t even realize I’m doing it, half the time and then I get mad at the world and start punching air. Fuck you. I’m black. Deal with it. This is what living in this country can do to you. It can make you doubt everything. It can make you buy into the utter bullshit of respectability politics when you know better.
I listen to music loudly in my car. It has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with having an awesome stereo system and a love of music. But, the rules are always different for black people. You don’t get to enjoy simple pleasures without consequences.
Some kids are listening to music in a car when a white man opens fire in them after a verbal altercation. It sickens me to type these words, to think them, to know them to be true. They were being teenagers.
When I was a kid, the teenagers in West Omaha would cruise Center Street because it was Nebraska. There was nothing else to do. They blasted their music. They left their empties in grocery store parking lots. And for a long time, no one fretted over it because they were all white.
If it were kids from North Omaha, where most of the black people live, it would have been an entirely different story. I didn’t know much about North Omaha growing up, but on Saturdays, my mom took me there to get my hair done because she didn’t know how to do it. That’s when I first saw black people other than my family, or Haitians. And I saw how different that neighborhood was from mine—run down, abandoned but not. I was too young to understand that I was seeing American poverty and segregation. As I got older, the stories began about North Omaha, as this dangerous, gang infested place. It was strange to hear these stories, because I never saw that North Omaha. I saw the kind women who had beautiful hairdos and smelled like cocoa butter and did my hair and told me stories, and hushed me when the relaxer started burning, and who laughed with my mother as they talked about things I was too young to understand. I was also too young to understand how lucky I was to live in a manicured suburb where my biggest struggle was white kids wanting to “touch my hair.” Privilege is a motherfucker and only now, as an adult, do I truly understand.
I want to say I am angry but what I feel is past anger. It’s a lonelier place than that, tinged with exhaustion, or weariness but what a shameful luxury it is to be in this place, to have the time to ponder injustice instead of living with it in the brutal ways so many people around the world do.
The jurors from the Michael Dunn trial are now talking. Most of them wanted to convict Dunn of murder but there were two doubters, two people who thought a grown man with a gun was acting in self-defense because he felt threatened by some unarmed kids listening to loud music in a car.
The press keeps calling Dunn’s trial the “loud music trial,” which is fucking infuriating. Loud music didn’t incite murder. Racism did. Michael Dunn is a racist murderer. Let’s not dance around the truth. He has shown himself plainly and it is embarrassing to see people trying to look away from Dunn, from this country, from themselves. Dunn’s trial was the racist murderer trial. It’s not that hard to say.
I want to say something about the value of black lives and black bodies, but honestly, what more is there to say that hasn’t already been said, each time something like this happens? I am out of words. I am out of… almost everything but again, that is a shameful luxury and so I need to try a way to fight this exhaustion, this weariness because somewhere out there, a young black man or woman is living on borrowed time. I am mourning them already but I want to do something more.