Black men believe they are viewed as ‘less valuable’
26th March 2014 · 0 Comments
By Kelly-Ann Brown, Brelaun Douglas and Jasmine Rennie
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – As the national focus continues on high-profile shootings of unarmed young Black men, some say the controversies have caused them to fear attack even when they are doing what is right and normal.
With fallout from the Florida-based Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin cases – and the not so recent, but still relevant, Sean Bell and Oscar Grant cases — all brimming with racial undertones — Black males seem to be in danger of being killed for that reason alone — being Black.
Most recently, Michael Dunn, 43, of Jacksonville, Fla., shot and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis during an argument at a gas station. Dunn opened fire, shooting toward an SUV carrying Davis and three friends. He claimed he thought he saw a gun during a dispute over the teens’ loud music.
Though convicted by a jury of three counts of attempted murder, the jury could not reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charge in relation to Davis’ death. Dun’s sentencing has been delayed until he is retried on the remaining first-degree murder charge May 5.
The case of Jordan Davis is reminiscent of scenarios that civil rights leaders argue the Black community has heard far too often. That scenario is that a young African-American male is unjustly killed and the trial often ends in a disappointing verdict.
As heartbreaking as the verdict had been, many young Black men were not surprised by the Dunn outcome at all, noting a culture of attacks against innocent Black me by those who stereotype or profile them.
Joshua Lanier, 25, a community supervision assistant for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in Washington, D.C., notes a common theme among the Jordan Davis case and others like it:
“A Black male’s life seems to be less valuable than anybody else’s in this country,” says Lanier. “Anytime you hear a case involving a young Black male [and] the police, he always seems to get the short end of the stick.”
For many it seems the outcomes of these cases — including the George Zimmerman acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin —have only reaffirmed what many Black men have considered to be true: “The justice system…is not meant for us,” says Christopher Crump, 19-year-old California resident attending Hampton University.
Though law officials pride themselves on objectivity, by nature people are judgmental and often unable to separate their emotions and personal experiences from their decision making as well as their views of others.
“Times haven’t changed,” says Nicholas Taylor, a 19-year-old Texas native attending Howard University. “There’s still an innate fear of African-American males … whether you are [a] law enforcement [official] or an average citizen.”
But when it comes to being a Black male in America, to what extent does race effect their interactions with others?
“I think many of us are unconscious of our personalities around people who are not like us, especially Caucasians,” says Gregory Richards, 24, an accounts receivable representative from The Bronx, N.Y.
Lanier, the community supervision assistant, agrees. He believes that Black males are feared “more than any other race and gender” because society has depicted the Black man to be aggressive and unpredictable. In response to this often false depiction, other races can be overly aggressive when attempting to diffuse a minor conflict; especially when it escalates to a killing.
Stresses related to being stereotyped and profiled are also known to affect the health of Black men, according to Dr. Waldo E. Johnson Jr., associate professor at the School of Social Service Administration and faculty affiliate in the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago.
At a symposium at the university last month, Johnson said African-American men suffer from much higher rates of depression because of trauma compared to their white counterparts, and many Black men don’t recognize that they have been traumatized, according to an article on TheNorthStarNews.com.
According to the article, “Because young Black men and Black men rarely find places where they can feel safe, they are on hyper-surveillance concerning their surroundings, and they are hyper-vigilant to any signs of danger coming from the police, or individuals who act like the police, such as a George Zimmerman, security guards following them in stores and other individuals in positions of authority, Dr. Johnson said. He added that Black men always are under intense surveillance by others.”
Recent high-profiled cases shed light on the belief that young Black men are apparently being killed because of their culture, such as Davis’s loud music which irritated Dunn, or their physical appearance, like Martin’s Hoodie which apparently caused shooter George Zimmerman to see him as suspicious. The stereotypical conclusion: Black men pose a threat.
As a result, some Black men change themselves to meet the expectations of others.
“Regardless of the situation they are going to see us as something we are not,” said 21-year-old Philadelphia resident Marcus Randall currently attending Penn State. “At the end of the day, I just have to be cautious of my surroundings and mindful of my actions.”
Through advice and personal experiences, many Black males have found strategies to combat these prejudices in hopes of making themselves seem less intimidating. “It’s not always about staying true to who you are, it’s about adapting. Adaptation doesn’t mean selling out,” says Taylor, the Howard student.
“I can understand not wanting to change because that’s who they are,” Taylor said. He concluded, but even “animals that don’t change go extinct.
This article originally published in the March 24, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.