If you haven’t done so already, I recommend viewing Orlando Bagwell’s New York Times Op-Doc When Loud Music Turned Deadly. I also recommend what really amounts to Bagwell’s artist’s statement as an accompaniment to this short film about the coldblooded murder of young Jordan Davis. The documentary would have been much longer if Bagwell had the time to report and to interrogate the significance of Michael Dunn ordering pizza to enjoy with his girlfriend instead of calling the police after he killed Davis, but this exclusion does not lessen the power of the film. This impact stems from the way it asks us to mourn the loss of this much loved child in a country that still sees black boys and black girls as “worthless human beings.” The documentary asks us to examine the conundrum black parents continue to face in rearing their children to love themselves and to know that some folk love them, while at the some time recognizing that DuBois’s reflections of this country’s regard for black life still holds. In January 1913, DuBois wrote an editorial for the Crisis magazine noting that:
There are far too many, North and South, who would preserve one foolish white woman if it costs the degradation of ten innocent colored girls, and who would greet the death of every black man in the world with a sigh of infinite relief.
Mamie Till-Mobley, Emmett Till’s mother, recalled doing everything imaginable to prepare her son for the sadistic, predatory will to “sigh” awaiting his arrival in Mississippi during the summer of 1955. In her memoir, Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America, Mrs. Till-Mobley recalls her past conversations with Emmett about race and decides this:
This was the first time I had ever really spoken to Emmett about race. I was giving him some pretty strong instructions about how to avoid problems but, before this, there had never been any reason for race to come up in any way. So, I wondered whether I had done enough to make up for all I had never had to do before. After all, how do you give a crash course in hatred to a boy who has only known love? (102)
I hope that Mrs. Till-Mobley eventually found some relief in accepting that she had done all she could to save her son. Her love for Emmett was so great that she offered him to us all as evidence of the ugliness and brutality of white supremacy. Mrs. Till-Mobley clearly understood that Emmett was not safe; Mr. Davis also knew this and tried to prepare his son for this reality. Both cases show us that preparation, however, doesn’t always save us. Despite what Jordan Davis knew or understood, Michael Dunn callously murdered him anyway.
Certainly, we should continue raising black children to recognize the many ways they will confront violence. How they will be skillfully assaulted by teachers who ignore them and diminish or dismiss their intellectual abilities; how they will be killed for listening to music that someone else dislikes; how they will be gunned down after buying iced-tea and skittles or for having the nerve to knock on someone’s door seeking assistance; how they will be murdered in their own beds when police officers on reality shows want to show how tough on crime they are. Yes, we need to remind black children that the world is lying in wait for them, but we MUST continue to attack white supremacist violence that prepares the ground for black women and men, black girls and boys, to be reaped in the killing fields of our homeland.