What We Wanted To Believe: An Open Letter to America (For Jordan Davs)

By Frank Roberts
Published in The Huffington Post, 2/16/2014

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What we wanted to believe was that the election of a black president–an election that brought together unforeseen coalitions across a variety of racial, sexual, and class constituencies– would symbolize a radical climate-shift; a long anticipated end to America’s ongoing racial nightmare.

What we wanted to believe was that the expansion of the black middle class–with their Affirmative Action success stories, Ivy League degrees, and cheap suburban-costs-of-living in North Carolina, Atlanta, and Maryland–was a sign that “our people” were being more consistently incorporated into the “American dream.” We wanted to believe that this meant that we were “safe” now: our children could walk home alone in their gated communities or drive through their neighborhoods in attractive SUVs.

What we wanted to believe was that the ever-escalating popularity and cross-racial commercial appeal of black music, media, television, and popular culture (from Scandal and Twelve Years A Slave to Beyonce and Melissa Harris-Perry) was representative of a sexy new form of American multiculturalism that was disproportionately benefiting African Americans.

What we wanted to believe was that the presence of a male, African American civil-rights lawyer (Eric Holder) serving as the nation’s attorney general would signal a new chapter in how justice would be administrated in America. We wanted to believe that this new chapter would be characterized by more justice, more equity, and more accountability.

What we wanted to believe was that our black boys–the boys that America has always loved to see singing, dancing, smiling, or playing ball–were no longer at the bottom of the cultural food-chain. We wanted desperately to believe that in the wake of the widespread outrage over the “not guilty” verdict in the 2013 George Zimmerman trial, the national conversation about young black men had shifted into a more careful discussion. The media was smarter, post-Trayvon. Juries would be more careful too, post-Trayvon. This is what we told ourselves.

What we wanted to believe was that America was ready to make good on its word. More specifically, we wanted to believe that the phrase “liberty and justice for all” could be experienced as a reality on-the-ground rather than simply as an empty ideological abstraction. We wanted young black boys and girls to believe that that the phrase “liberty and justice for all” applied to them too.

This is what we wanted to believe. But in spite of these hopes, these dreams, these wishes–we are now confronted with a paralyzing bluesnote: when it comes to the politics of race and justice in America, we are still a nation of the changing-same.

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4 Comments

  1. Katherine Gullett

    February 16, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    We are all disappointed. We thought it would be a time of coming together a time not only of brotherhood but of higher consciousness regarding our earth, a beginning for utilizing power from the sun and wind, for recognition of the polluting of our rivers, oceans and our planetary life. We thought a healing might begin and wars would lessen. We had all kinds of hopes. We had a black president who wanted peace.

    The 1% had other ideas. They have made billions from war. They have had their corporations moved out of country to make more money. The !% want more, much more. They don’t want the minimum wage raised, or social security to continue. They don’t want the out of work to have unemployment at all but they’ll settle for a minimum time, with drug testing. The 1% don’t care about what fracking does, whether the schools are giving the kids an education which allows them to compete world wide. Well on and on. We the people who are liberal and believe in fairness are all very deeply disappointed.

  2. Brett Dorsey

    February 16, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Mr. Dunn did not get off for the killing of Mr. Davis nor the attempted murder of his friends. He will likely not live to see his sentence of 60 plus years carried out. The jury can only sentence within the guidelines of law:

    In Florida, a person is guilty of first degree murder when it is perpetrated from a premeditated design to result in the death of a human being. A person is also guilty of first degree murder if they cause the death of any individual during the commission of a predicate felony regardless of actual intent or premeditation. This is called felony murder. This offense is categorized as capital offense, if convicted the offender could possibly receive the death penalty in the State of Florida.[17][18].

    The jury simply gave Mr. Dunn the benefit of the doubt with regards to his intent: he thought he saw a gun through tinted glass, so he proceeded to defend himself based on this assumption–which would prove erroneous.

    The law requires that we sentence in criminal cases beyond a reasonable doubt; therefore to this effect, I think the jury did the best they could. I cannot speak to past cases but only the relevant now. Can we say what this man did or didn’t see in the young persons vehicle–no. Can we say this man is racist and paranoid–probably so based on his letters.

    Can we say the murder was premeditated, or arbitrary, based on what he thought he saw or didn’t see–no, not absolutely because we’re not him and we were not there. The law says “beyond a reasonable doubt” can we say what he saw or didn’t see; although, we now know whatever it was–if indeed anything– it definitely wasn’t a gun. That’s the difference between first and second degree murder–premeditation as opposed to a violent reaction in the heat of the moment. The law requires we get it right based upon the facts we know–not supposes.

    Bye the way, it looks like he going to pay one way or the other.

  3. Buni Gamez

    February 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Can we say that God has final judgement and that it appears that what the death of Trayvon did was put George Zimmerman on front street and bring a very evil man who believed he is above the law in several situations, to light. We all know what a dirt bag he is and we all can watch as he ends up in a prison and especially then even protective segregation will not be able to keep him from a long and painful awakening.

  4. Aiden Cassidy

    February 17, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    As an outsider looking in and having lived here in the USA for the past 8 years I can honestly say that Americans do not understand the meaning or concept of change. I say this based on one main premise. Everyone has their own agenda, their own reason for being in the situation that they are in now, their own vested interest. You are all thinking as individuals that have been beaten so far down that you don’t know how to get up anymore. This is characterized by your your inability to question your leaders; to make them accountable; and in turn make yourselves accountable; to stand up for what is right no matter what the consequences are. It is not up to your leaders to force change, but you as individuals and citizens have an obligation to the next generation to DEMAND change. For as long as you allow these injustices to continue you are no better than the leaders that you elect who soon forget who put them in office. Sadly the phrase “liberty and justice for all” only applies if you are white or if you are part of the 1% that don’t give a damn if you live or die because you see the answer is so simple – they are not at the bottom of the heap – they are not the other 99% – while inequality exist the 1% thrive. Although I suspect that the 1% is bigger than originally thought.

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