Jordan Davis – a 17-year-old young black man – was shot and killed by Michael Dunn – a 47-year-old white man.
This is not in dispute.
Jordan Davis was shot and killed by Michael Dunn.
And while Michael Dunn was convicted several of the charges against him, he was not convicted of the murder of Jordan Davis.
It happened again.
I think of the many young black men I teach and have taught who could have been Jordan Davis… who could have been Trayvon Martin… and those are the cases that made the New York Times, and be sure, there are too many that did not penetrate mainstream consciousness.
I think of the many conversations I have had with students of color who have talked to me about “Walking While Black” and the many struggles my students face on a daily basis.
I want to write about how Tuesday we will go back to work at SLA at trying to do the work of listening to each other, of trying to make our corner of the world better, of talking explicitly about issues of race and how they affect us all.
I admit that right now it is hard to do that. Right now, I simply feel for Jordan Davis and his family. I simply worry about my kids — the ones I teach and the ones who are mine — who grow up in a world where this can happen.
But that is right now.
Tuesday, I will redouble my efforts to teach the world we live in.
This verdict must serve to remind us that there is no such thing (to quote SLA teacher Pia Martin) as passive anti-racism. This verdict must remind us that institutional racism is the norm in this country and therefore we have to actively work to do better. This verdict must remind us that we are nowhere near being the country we need to be for our citizens of color — and, therefore, for all of us.
So…Chris…what do you, as a White man, say to the young Black men at your school? What message do you have for them that will make sense?
Ugh. I wish I could tell you that I felt like I had anything good to say. More than anything, I try I listen a lot, because many of my students have told me that they want someone to understand them. I talk about how – on one very basic level – my answer to how I could help make a better world was by creating SLA. I talk to all our students about how making the world a more just, equitable place is the the responsibility of all of us because I believe deeply that anti-racism is and must be the responsibility of all of us. I tell them that they are my hope – that they will do this better than our generation has.
And I tell them that I hurt too. That might be the most important thing I say.
I appreciate your reply. As a Black woman teaching in a predominately-White school, I need a message for all of my students as well. I feel obligated, however, to my Black male students, as few in number as they are, to have something meaningful to say to them, especially.
I agree, and I suppose that the message to Black male students that I can offer is that I understand that they are hurt by this – even if I cannot as a white male cannot fully understand the hurt they feel as Black men. I can tell them that I believe deeply that this is wrong… that our society must do better… and that they are amazing and that I love them.
And then, again, I think it’s important that I simply listen for as long as is needed. Deepening that, I think it’s about listening to what they need and trying to answer their needs in some ways – even when this is a problem that extends well beyond our walls. Some students may want concrete things they can do like working to speak out against Stand Your Ground Laws. Other young men will want to figure out how we can talk about this as a community. Other students may simply want me to understand how much this hurts.
We always say there are three questions we can always ask that speak to our ethic of care – “What do you think,” “How do you feel,” and “What do you need?” I think I’ll be asking those questions a lot this week. I think – I hope – those questions will lead to the conversations our students of color want us to have with them.
If you want to have a discussion group let me know, I’m available at anytime.