The high-profile cases of white Americans killing black teenagers have grabbed too many headlines in recent years. From Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown, it’s evident that America still has a real racial problem.
The slaying of unarmed, black teenagers like Martin and Brown is part of a broader issue concerning how black lives are treated as less valuable in our society.
According to a 2010 study of 550,000 homicide reports assembled by Scripps Howard News Service from FBI and local police reports, the rate of interracial murder is growing.
White-on-black killings have risen from three to four percent in the last decade (ABC.com), and citizens complained more than 26,000 times in 2002 about excessive police force, where evidence in only about eight percent of complaints justified disciplinary action (Bureau of Justice Statistics).
These statistics reflect the institutional racism, or system of inequality based on race, that is too deeply rooted in our society and culture. They have created a racial divide that can demonize black teenagers and subject them to violence at the hands of the police.
This week, a Florida man charged with the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in 2012 was found guilty in his first-degree murder case, the Associated Press reported.
Forty-seven year old Michael Dunn was accused of killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis in 2012 after a dispute over the teenager’s loud music turned deadly. After a retrial, prosecutors were able to secure a murder conviction.
Davis’ mother expressed her gratitude for a verdict. She said the verdict represented justice not only for her son, but also for “Trayvon and for all the nameless faces and children and people that will never have a voice,” CNN.com reported.
The truth of the matter when it comes to interracial homicides is that they are hard to prove as racially-motivated hate crimes—especially if the jury is made up of white men and women.
In Florida, for example, the Stand Your Ground law allowed George Zimmerman, who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, to convince a jury that he feared for his life and was therefore justified when he shot and killed Martin.
America has a long history of racism, but The Michael Dunn trial verdict is proof that we are beginning to react.
Hopefully, it is a first step in a series of rulings to come in our American judicial court system, where a person will be seen for their humanity instead of their race.