Opinion: New victim of black blindness?

December 4, 2012


Call it black blindness.

It is a kind of myopia that afflicts some of us — too many of us — whenever we gaze upon a dark-skinned man. It causes some of us — too many of us — to see things that are not there, and to miss things that are. Sometimes, it is fatal.

Such was the case for Amadou Diallo, the African immigrant who died in a hailstorm of gunfire in 1999 after police mistook his wallet for a gun.

We cannot yet know if black blindness was the cause of death for Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old black kid who was killed the night after Thanksgiving. But there is reason to suspect it was. Davis was shot by a 45-year-old white man, Michael David Dunn, who says he saw a rifle. At this writing, police have recovered no such weapon.

The altercation began with an argument in a gas station in Jacksonville, Fla. Dunn had pulled in so his girlfriend could go to the convenience store. In an SUV next to him were Davis and three other teenagers playing their music too loudly. Dunn told them to turn it down. An argument ensued. Dunn’s attorney, Robin Lemonidis, says the teenagers peppered him with obscenities and insults. Then, she says, Davis poked a rifle through an open window, threatened her client and began to open the door of the SUV. Dunn reached for his pistol and came up firing. The SUV peeled out. Dunn kept shooting at it because, his lawyer says, he feared the teenagers might come back after him.

“There is no racial motivation here whatsoever,” she told The New York Times. But even if you buy that, Dunn’s story still has holes in it you could drive a shot-up SUV through.

Consider: someone’s got a gun trained on you, about to shoot, yet you have time to reach for your glove box, open it, unholster your own weapon and bring it up? Not even Little Joe Cartwright was that fast on the draw.

Then there’s the fact that afterward, Dunn and his girlfriend went to a hotel. You’ve been threatened, you had to shoot to save your life .?.?. and you go to a hotel? You don’t alert authorities about this SUV full of dangerous kids roaming the streets?

Dunn, says Lemonidis, did not realize he had killed Davis until he saw the news the following morning. Yet, he still did not contact authorities, instead driving home to Satellite Beach, Fla., about 175 miles south, intending to turn himself in to a neighbor who has law enforcement ties. Police, who had gotten his license plate number from witnesses, soon arrived to arrest him.

So Dunn’s story is shaky without the overlay of race.

With it, with the obvious comparisons to the killing of Trayvon Martin, one can only wonder if black blindness has not claimed yet another victim. That is a danger all over the country, but particularly in Florida, whose misbegotten Stand Your Ground law essentially licenses any citizen to use deadly force against any other citizen so long as the first citizen claims he or she felt threatened.

Sure enough, Lemonidis is considering just such a defense for her client.

The frightening thing, if you are a young African-American man, is that you know nothing makes some folks feel more “threatened” than you. Nor do you threaten by doing. You threaten by being. You threaten by existing. Such is the invidious result of four centuries of propaganda in which every form of malfeasance, bestiality and criminality is blamed on you.

In such an environment Florida’s law inevitably becomes a potential “Get Out Of Jail Free” card for anyone who shoots a young black man. So this death, besides being a tragedy for the grieving family of one boy, is a sobering reminder for the family of every boy who looks like him.

And until or unless there is a definitive answer, they — we — must ponder with heartsick urgency one simple question:

What did Michael Dunn really see? And why?

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

What's your point? That it's open season on black men?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

His point might be that if it is indeed open season on black men, and it is other black men doing the vast majority of the killing, it's odd that Mr. Pitts would highlight the small percentage of black men killed by white men. Unless of course Mr. Pitts believes that black on black killings are tolerable while white on black killings are not.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

No, his point is that since some black men kill other black men, it's perfectly OK if a white guy kills a black kid merely because he's black and playing his music too loud.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

If you know what his point was, then why ask the question 'What's your point'?

But you're missing the point. You, like Mr. Pitts can't seem to find the forest because all those damn trees are in the way. The problem isn't that "some" blacks are killing other blacks. The problem is that the "overwhelming majority" of black deaths are the result of black on black crime. It's not just "some". It's an "epidemic". It's not just "some". It's become the leading cause of death in some communities.

If the deaths of young black men really was your concern, or that of Mr. Pitts, you both would be trying to highlight that. Bring it to the attention of all so that solutions might be found. But you both minimize black on black deaths, choosing to highlight isolated instances of white on black crime. While equally tragic, in terms of numbers, those are dwarfed by the larger problem, the one you both minimize when you say "some". In this case, "some" is really the "overwhelming majority and alarmingly high".

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

If your accusation of being a racist is directed at me, I would ask you politely to refrain from that. Racism is abhorrent and the accusation of such should be used only when clear evidence of such exists.

If you would note, Bozo asked the original poster a rhetorical question, one that Bozo then went on to answer in a later post. I was offering a possible explanation of the original posters intent, so while I read Mr. Pitts' column, my first post was in regards to Briseis' comments.

I do agree with you and Mr. Pitts that what is happening in Florida is of concern. The particular "stand your ground' law seems to be having significant unintended consequences. But I'll stand by my comments that those are dwarfed by the problems of black on black homicides in places like Chicago, Detroit and Oakland. If you limit your focus to just Florida, you're missing the bigger picture.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Pitts quite often points out the problems within black communities, including black on black violence.

But you don't like his pointing out still-all-too-common white on black violence motivated by racism, so you and the reappearing troll focus instead on a distraction.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

"Still-all-too-common" - A one minute google search produced the following statistic. Ninety three percent of all homicides of blacks were committed by other blacks. (between the years 1980 and 2008).

I'll say again, every homicide is a tragedy. But look at the bigger picture.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

That statistic tells more about the prevalence of segregation and the higher incidence of crime in poor neighborhoods in this country than anything else. And black males are incarcerated or otherwise subjected to sanctions under the criminal justice system at rates much higher than in other communities-- rates that are not commensurate with the relative levels of criminal activity among racial groups in the country.

That's the real bigger picture.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

No, Bozo. That's "also" part of the bigger problem.

All of that is true. Segregation continues to be a problem. Blacks are subjected to greater incarceration and do get punished at higher rates relative to the crimes they commit. Absolutely true. So true is that they commit crimes at higher rates. There are many parts of the puzzle. But 93% is still 93%.

Kathy Theis-Getto 5 years, 5 months ago

Hilighting the deaths of young black men by black men would accomplish what in your opinion, jhawk? Do you have suggestions as to how we change years and years of social policy? War on drugs? Institutionalized racism? I am anxious to hear your solutions.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

Solutions? Good question. If I knew, I would simply implement them. Then again, I make the same assumptions about our leaders, be it the President of the U.S., Governors, mayors of those cities most affected, civil rights leaders, religious leaders, etc. But since they haven't implemented working solutions, I'll assume they're muddling along as best they can, without any real insight as to how to solve the problem. I'm assuming they do want to solve the problem, and you can assume I would like the problem solved. So unless I had some great insight that they all lack, it's not likely I'll give anything more than my opinion. At least they, with much greater resources had a better chance to solve the problem, yet evidenced by their failure, whatever good intentions they had, they produced failure instead.

The war on drugs has been a failure. So has the war on poverty. Shall we admit as much and start all over agin? Tweak the systems? I've got my opinions, but I'm not certain I have solutions. What I am certain about is that those who profess to have solutions only have opinions.

jonas_opines 5 years, 5 months ago

I know right? They're both black, therefore they belong to the Black Club, and as such need to get on the same page with their respective dialog. We certainly can't foster the idea that there is disagreement between members of the Black Club!

jonas_opines 5 years, 5 months ago

It's a loaded issue here, for sure.

I don't dispute the numbers, but at least part of the problem with making this kind of analysis (and the problem of stoking it from the other direction as Pitts does so frequently) is a potential correlation v causation aspect.

The trouble, and thus the hesitance at invoking these statistics, is that it conveys the idea that race is the factor in all of those crimes. Someone who tends to think on racial lines might look at those stats and think that race is the problem. But I'd suspect that the obvious causational factor is economic status, as it typically is when it comes to crime. Of course, that's pretty easy to shake out, assuming you have all the data available, by applying an income status to all of those crimes and find out how often non-poor blacks commit crime compared to non-poor whites. Not fool-proof, but it would give you a clearer picture, perhaps. Alas, I have not the time for such a study.

Which, of course, opens the floodgates for the Other issue, of where and how widely spread the responsibility is that black Americans tend to be of much lower economic status that whites.

brewmaster 5 years, 5 months ago

FBI crime statistics that show a particular group of people are 13% of the population and that group commits over 80% of violent crime in the U.S. How does the "blindness" concept explain that?

Nellane Laney Croan Stussie 5 years, 5 months ago

Pitts should direct his righteous indignation where it belongs ... at the black male demographic of our society. As long as black maleness is synonymous with irresponsibility, aggression and bravado, white society is statically justified to be cautious.

According to the Dept. of Justice, of the 12,996 murder victims in 2010: - 77.4 percent were male Who is getting murdered? - 50.4 percent were black - 47.0 percent were white, and - 2.6 percent were of other races Who commits murder? - 90.3 percent were males. - 53.1 percent were black, - 44.6 percent were white, and - 2.3 percent were of other races.

hedshrinker 5 years, 5 months ago

Black males don't have a corner on the machismo character "irresponsibility, aggression and bravado" as noted above. It seems pretty hard-wired in male DNA and from my perspective seems most successfully modified when men feel appropriately confident economically, socially, psychologically, spiritually to the point where they don't have to posture authority by dominating, oppressing and destroying and humiliating everything around them. Class inequality breeds this dynamic seen individually in bullying and sociopathic behavior and in groups in gangs and "my way or the hiway" politics and corporate greed and nation-states gone astray. When people feel in control of their own destiny they don't have to resort to felonious and soul-sucking behavior. The "black male demographic" isn't the problem. And dare I mention that a culture that promotes a wild-west atmospere with everyone being armed to the teeth so that's the first option for solving a problem when you either feel threatened or want to show how tough you are creates an incendiary environment. I applaud Pitts for consistently being brave enough to speak out about topics which most won't : class and race.

verity 5 years, 5 months ago

Amen, sister/brother!

And no way condoning the shooting, but there were bad actors on both sides here.

Briseis 5 years, 5 months ago

Your intra-repartee summed up sounds like the old, Which came first? The chicken or the egg?..syndrome.

Satirical 5 years, 5 months ago

Pitts is a genius! I need to follow the Pitts blueprint if I want to get wealth and prominence.

First, I have to find a group which has been historically discriminated against (other than Mormons, or other conservative leaning groups, because my target market of emotional thinkers don’t sympathize with groups who tend to disagree with them politically).

Second, I have to self-anoint as that group’s champion.

Third, I have to make it appear that discrimination against this group is far worse than it actually is. If I am lucky I can make it appear that discrimination against this group is at an all-time high. Facts won’t work here, so I will have to appeal to peoples' emotions. I will also make sure anytime there is a serious incident between an individual from the majority and my historically discriminated against group, that I claim the incident was motivated by current discrimination, no matter how tenuous the connection actually is. I must never let a tragedy go to waste. It will appear that I am trying to bring attention to the issue, when really all I want to do is repeat my argument that discrimination against this group is pervasive.

If they dare try to use logic or facts to counter my baseless assertions, I will claim they hate the group I am “trying to protect.” It will be like the Emperor’s Clothes, where only those who are socially enlightened will be able to see the injustice. Plus emotions always prevail against logic when dealing with the social justice crowd.

Pitts is brilliant. This plan has the benefit of making me appear to be an altruistic civil rights type crusader, when in fact all I really want is social prominence (which will lead to wealth).

jonas_opines 5 years, 5 months ago

George Will, Cal Thomas, and Charles Krauthammar have also gained great success following this model. It sells. Discrimination, current or historic, isn't even all that necessary, if you can sell the concept.

Wanna start a business? We could take turns for the first few editions, taking one side or the other, and see if we get more success when we're writing about things we legitimately at least somewhat believe, or when we're cynically writing about things that we don't actually believe to be true, but know how to write. Satirical, you might say.

Any guess as to which would yield better results?

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 5 months ago

This is especially terrifying for those of us who have black men in our family that we love very much. It hurts to think that others could look at him and see something bad without even speaking to him. No one should have to fear for the life of a family member when they go out.

hedshrinker 5 years, 5 months ago

If we follow Satirical's model (damning social justice proponents for emotional thinking) we could also consider how the far right exploits emotional thinking as well. mostly FEAR...fear of people different from you in color, religion, sexual orientation, life-style, ethnicity, gender, national origin, values, etc. Also I reject your tired ploy of damning those who differ fr you by labeling them as hysterical/emotional/irrational....a healthy person demonstrates a balance of rationality and feeling...much of what is wrong in relationships and society at large is bullies and macho types pretending that having feelings makes them (and you) sissified and inferior and their attempts to dominate others is to show us how rational they are. And I reject as well your theory that those who advocate for others see themselves as saviors or somehow are in it for the $$$ or power??? I don't even know what to say about that....my experience working as an advocate in the public sector is that staff is pretty much accorded the same amount of disrespect their clients are subjected to...if you work with rich and powerful people, you're cool and if you work with poor, impaired people with no power, you must be a loser. To be clear, that's not my position, but many see it that way.

tomatogrower 5 years, 5 months ago

Ok, I now have my conceal carry permit. During training, our trainer stressed that if someone breaks into your house and you shoot him, you are ok. If the guy runs and you chase after him, that's not ok. He also told us that if you even show your gun to someone, even without shooting it, you should report it to the police, right away. If you are a true gun rights supporter, you will promote this guy going to jail. He is going to do more to ruin your gun rights, than any liberal.

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