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From Jordan Davis to Barack Obama: White America's Historic Problem With 'Arrogant' Black People

There was an ugly epilogue to that strange crime. A drunken Motlow shot and killed a conductor on a passenger train in 1924 and beat the murder charge through a crudely racist, and high-priced, defense strategy...

On March 17, 1924, after a visit here for a brief court appearance, Motlow had drinks with friends before heading to Union Station. He stumbled unsteadily onto the Louisville & Nashville night train for the trip home to Tennessee.

Sleeping-car car porter Ed Wallis asked Motlow for his ticket. He didn’t have one and became irate that Wallis, who was black, dared to challenge him. Conductor Clarence Pullis, who was white, intervened. As the train chuffed through the downtown tunnel toward the Eads Bridge, Motlow pulled a pistol and fired twice, striking Pullis once in the abdomen.

Pullis, of Kirkwood, died in a hospital in East St. Louis. Motlow was charged with murder.

In the era of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and ominous Stand Your Ground laws, the above account is painfully familiar.

Now, consider the following:

Dunn has testified he described the music to his fiancee as "rap crap."

In the parking lot, as the music blared, "his blood started to boil; he didn't like the music that was coming out of the car next to him; he got angrier and angrier," Wolfson said.

Dunn rolled down his window and asked the youths to turn it down, which they did, but then turned it back up, Wolfson said.

"He got angry at the fact that a 17-year-old kid decided not to listen to him," she said, adding that Dunn then pulled a 9 mm gun out of his glove box and shot "systematically and methodically" at the SUV. "Nobody denied that Jordan was talking back. But this defendant took it upon himself to silence Jordan Davis forever."

The jury in the Michael Dunn-Jordan Davis trial has decided that Dunn is "not guilty" of murder.

The matter should have been a simple one: a man with a gun shoots and kills an unarmed teenager who was sitting in a car and playing loud music. Despite the claims by the shooter that the victim and the other young people he shot were "armed", no evidence of a weapon is found. Dunn then goes back to his hotel, walks his dog, relaxes, and does not inform the police that he shot at a vehicle and its occupants 10 times.

Of course, Stand Your Ground, what is a de facto licence to shoot and kill at will, is invoked by Dunn's attorney. Jordan Davis is a 17-year-old black teenager. Michael Dunn is a 47-year-old white adult. Once more, America's long history of state sanctioned white supremacist violence against black and brown people unfairly shifts the scales of justice.

Michael Dunn was found not guilty of murder: the legal system was not able to hurdle over the added doubt which exists whenever a white person is charged with killing a black person. Of course, somehow the latter had it coming, asked for it, or provoked their own end.

Michael Dunn was found not guilty of murdering Davis because he "felt threatened". Thus, the notorious Stand Your Ground laws offer him protection from the consequences of his actions. Moreover, the jury's decision is very much in keeping with the American social and legal precedents which have for centuries deemed black life cheap at the hands of white murderers, rapists, terrorists, and other human debris and miscreants.

There is a thread of connective tissue which runs from Trayvon Martin to Jordan Davis, President Obama, and black athletes such as Richard Sherman.

Martin was guilty of not being sufficiently deferent to a stranger with no legal authority who against police instructions chose to stalk and threaten him with a gun.

Obama has faced Birtherism, irresponsible obstructionism, and overt disrespect because he is not sufficiently compliant and deferent in the face of the Republican Party's neo Confederate white identity politics.

Sherman, a Stanford University graduate, was branded a "thug" because he dared to celebrate and tout his athletic prowess after a championship football game.

Jordan Davis was shot dead for being black, male, and having the nerve to "mouth off" to a white man:

On rebuttal, Assistant State Attorney John Guy appealed to the jurors' "common sense."
"That defendant didn't shoot into a car full of kids to save his life," he said. "He shot into it to preserve his pride. Period. That's why we're here."

Though Davis may have had a big mouth, he had no weapon, Guy said. Though he acknowledged minor inconsistencies in witness accounts, he said that was to be expected. "It's not like television," he said. "In real life, there are inconsistencies."

All four examples consist of black people--men and teenagers in particular--who have committed one of the greatest social offenses in a country where white supremacy was standing law, and where such rules still exist in many ways.

Their "crime"? For the White Gaze, Obama, Martin, Sherman, and Davis are "arrogant" and "uppity".

During Jim and Jane Crow, black men and women had to get off of the sidewalk and avert their eyes when white people approached. African-American communities were destroyed by white rampaging mobs because the very idea of black success, genius, and dignity was "offensive" to white sensibilities.

For the White Right and its authoritarian populism in the present, Barack Obama is guilty of the major offense that is being black and successful and President of the United States. For a black man to have such achievements is a triumvirate of success, one that is intolerable to the white supremacist ethos which drives the contemporary Republican Party, and the racially resentful human mediocrities who are attracted to its authoritarian populism and the psychological wages of whiteness such an association provides them.

Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis because the latter was not sufficiently "respectful" towards a white man. The legal decision exists separate and apart from that basic fact.

Dunn is not alone in his distaste for "arrogant" negroes. History echoes.

Continuing with the 1924 murder trial of Lem Motlow:

Motlow testified that Wallis was arrogant. Using a racial slur, he said Wallis grabbed him by the throat. “I reached for my pistol,” Motlow said, “then somebody grabbed my hand from behind, and the pistol accidentally discharged twice.”

During closing arguments, Frank Bond, a defense lawyer from Nashville, repeatedly used racial slurs and said, “There are two kinds of (blacks) in the South. There are those who know their place ... and those who have ambitions for racial equality. ... In such a class falls Wallis, the race reformer, the man who would be socially equal to you all, gentlemen of the jury.”

Circuit Attorney Howard Sidener said, “This is not a case of North and South. ... This is a case of murder.” But the 12 white gentlemen quickly voted to acquit on Dec. 10. Said foreman Frederick Smith, “We didn’t believe the Negro.” Jurors shook hands with Motlow.

"Arrogant" and "uppity" black Americans continue to face sanctions and discipline at the hands of white people in post civil rights America. Michael Dunn's murder of Jordan Davis, and the jury's acquittal on that count, is a reminder of that social norm.

Stand Your Ground laws are but one more example of those practices--the legalese sounds much nicer and palatable than the raw truth that black people must always be compliant when faced with White Authority.