Letters from Readers on the February 26 National Day of Outrage and Remembrance for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis

March 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Learning from the Michael Dunn Verdict

Hi Revolution:

My initial response to the Dunn verdict was outrage that he was not convicted of first degree murder, but I had also expected something like this verdict. I expected that outcome since the District Attorney in that area of Florida, Angela Corey had gone after Marissa Alexander—an African-American woman—hammer and tongs, when she defended herself against an abusive ex-husband by firing a warning shot into the wall of her garage, harming no one, but was unable to get a conviction of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin. The elephant in the room was white supremacy which is something that someone like Corey would not and could not touch, as it is a cornerstone of this capitalist-imperialist system that we live under and that it would take a revolution to uproot it (and so many other inequalities and horrors).

I also wondered why there wasn’t a stronger response of outrage nationally in the wake of this verdict as there was right after the Zimmerman verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. I talked this over with another Revolution volunteer and went back and studied the statement from Carl Dix as well as other articles from Revolution newspaper on the trial ("The Mistrial in the Murder of Jordan Davis" and "Mistrial of Michael Dunn: An Intolerable Injustice") to get a better understanding of the verdict.

It became clearer to me that that it is important to look at reality in its actual motion and development and not have expectations about how things would turn out just because something which happened in the past around a similar issue would come down the same way later. This did compel me to think more deeply about the Dunn verdict.

It did occur to me that there was less publicity about the Jordan Davis murder even from the very beginning. So it might be case that many people did not know about the murder and how it came about or the ins and outs of the trial as it progressed. Dunn WAS convicted of three counts of attempted murder and a weapons charge while Zimmerman walked free of all charges. While   the Dunn trial itself is, in some ways, even more openly racist than the murder of Trayvon Martin—it does not necessarily equal a more angry response. A week later after the Dunn verdict, there were protests over the verdict, but they were not on the same level as the Zimmerman verdict.

So, now—what was I going to do about this? I took the cue from Carl Dix’s statement and got together with another friend and made plans to go out to an elite university in the area to take out Revolution newspaper, the call for Hoodie Day 2014 (February 26, 2014) and BAsics palm cards—“There would be no United States as we know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.” (BAsics 1:1) Their reaction was “ Wow!”—it was like they had never seen it put so sharply before. (They were also encouraged to check out the revcom.us website so that they can get more familiar with what the movement for revolution is doing and the wide range of things that Revolution newspaper covers. Revolution #330 was the issue that they were checking out.)

When I first started talking to students on campus, I got a sense that a lot of people at this elite school had some vague idea that the anniversary was coming up—people said things like, “yeah, I remember what happened to Trayvon Martin—is it two years already?”—and that some people had a vague idea as to what had happened with Jordan Davis, but were not aware that the trial was going on at that time. One of the students that I met that day—when I pointed out that the Dunn verdict signified “Open Season” on Black youth, agreed with that statement. Some students knew a little bit about the murder of Jordan Davis, but as that it was not widely publicized, not too many people knew a lot about it.

There was some confusion over the verdict. One student said, “Well, he WAS convicted of three counts of attempted murder—isn’t that good enough?” Another student thought that “it was outrageous that he [Dunn] wasn’t convicted of first degree murder.” When I mentioned that this system is incapable of doing anything that resembles justice for murders like these or doing anything that is in people’s interests, that we need a revolution, people were kind of mulling it over—thinking about questions that they had not confronted before. This is something that I wish that I had been better at going after.

Now, in the future, whenever I go out to places and talk to people about revolution and communism, I will ask more questions of people in terms of what they know about this history. Their response challenged some of my own thinking that you could not talk about revolution and communism right off the bat—that you had to go at it in bits and pieces. In retrospect, when I brought up the question of revolution and communism, I learned that people ARE open to discussing and exploring revolution and communism. One thing that I noticed about this encounter with the students at this elite school was that it brought out to me more clearly where I had been wrong before in my approach to talking to people about revolution and communism. That older approach was one of bringing it up in bits and pieces instead of bringing up the question right off the bat.

There were those who were really angry about the verdict and thought that Hoodie Day would be an appropriate response. One of the students said that he would contact some of his friends and see if they wanted to do something on Hoodie day—February 26, 2014. Those students also bought a copy of Revolution newspaper—said they wanted to think a bit more about it once they’ve read it.

I also spoke to other people about this. I spoke to a friend, a middle class African-American woman who was outraged that Dunn was not convicted of murder, but thought that the solution to this was for people to work to repeal “Stand Your Ground” laws. My response to this was that people trying to rely on politicians who put forth such laws as “Stand Your Ground” would not bring about the change that we really needed. That the only way that any real changes have occurred in this country was that people resisted what this system has brought down on Black and brown people and that this resistance took place in the streets.  I gave her a copy of a downloaded CD of Carl Dix’s talk at Revolution Books in New York City: “We Must Not, We Will Not Accept This Outrage!

I also discussed the verdict with someone over dinner. He was outraged over the verdict, but he thought that since Dunn was convicted of attempted murder as well as weapons charges, that was good enough. He too also missed the significance of the fact that Dunn was NOT convicted for the murder of Jordan Davis. Dunn was convicted of three counts of attempted murder and a weapons charge. Also—there is the very real danger and possibility that Dunn’s conviction could be overturned on appeal and that he will get away altogether for his crimes. The significance is that the way that the whole trial went down was that—you couldn’t even talk about racism… that things were set up in such a way so as to let him get away with murder.

The fact that a jury failed to convict Dunn of the murder of a Black youth indicates that this system and society is giving a green light for people like him to go out and put bulls-eye targets on the backs of Black and Latino youth and kill them (that coming off of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder  of Trayvon Martin only served to reinforce this). I  urged him to read Carl Dix’s statement on the Mistrial in the Murder of Jordan Davis, and struggled with him over why this verdict  was bad.

I told him that I was going to donate $50 to Revolution newspaper so that a team of people can go down to Jacksonville, FL to be on the ground and further report from there what is really going on in the aftermath of the verdict, and I asked him what he was going to donate. He then donated $50, to make our combined donation $100. So, in the course of this struggle that we had, his thinking started to change a bit in terms of how to view this verdict. He started to think a bit more deeply about the depths of white supremacy in the U.S. today.

I learned that we need to go more deeply into what people are thinking and that we need to challenge the wrong thinking that people have and engage with people around the questions that they raise. Revolution newspaper is a tremendous resource for doing that.

Unleashing the Anger That Exists

I’ve been thinking a lot about a point made by Carl Dix in the recent interview. What I got out of what Carl was saying is that so many people fundamentally don’t think that anything can be done about the horrific conditions confronting humanity (whether it be the slow and grinding genocide facing Black and Latino youth or the enslavement and degradation of women). At the same time, everything we are doing is part of putting an end to that horrific reality (even as people are themselves in a process of deepening their understanding of and struggling over the need for communist revolution). 

Learning more from what got unleashed on February 26–I think there’s real importance in unleashing the very real, raw, and visceral anger that exists (even if just beneath the surface). We should appreciate that the struggle against this criminal outrage is part of the sustenance of that—and what has to bring that out in people—but how do you continue to make it feel real to people that it doesn’t have to be this way and that people themselves can change the course of history? The point is made in the call to End Pornography and Patriarchy, The Enslavement and Degradation of Women that we have to rely on ourselves to defeat this war on women. This also got expressed from people who came out to the February 26 demonstrations. I spoke to a Black Christian guy in his late 20s or early 30s who could reiterate all the fucked up experiences of Black people at the hands of the police. And, he felt like he was a part of something that’s trying to put a stop to that. In continuing to amplify the call: NO MORE of this reality—we’re also part of bringing something different into existence. 

One idea: What if we had more Speak Bitterness type speak-outs; ways of breaking the silence. From chalking in the streets—to voicing, articulating, writing experiences you’ve had at the hands of this system. My thinking is that these wouldn’t just be forums in general, but would actually be part of changing the culture—where people are confronted with the realities of this slow genocide or the mass degradation of women; as part of building a movement to put an end to this, building the movement for revolution and building the Party as its leading core.

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