He Felt Threatened

[Content Note: Gun violence; death; racism.]

On Tuesday, I wrote about the murder of 17-year-old black teenager Jordan Davis, who was shot by 45-year-old white man Michael Dunn after Dunn asked the car full of teens in which Davis was a passenger to turn down their music in a public parking lot and they refused. Dunn shot at the car "eight or nine times" and then fled the scene.

He has pleaded not guilty a charge of murder, and his defense attorney is making a pretty remarkable argument for him:
"Once all the facts come out, that what really happened is known, it will be very clear that Mr. Dunn acted responsibly and as any responsible firearms owner would have acted under these same circumstances," said his attorney, Robin Lemonidis, reported FirstCoastNews.com, the website for NBC station WTLV in Jacksonville.
Somehow I doubt that.

Jacksonville Homicide Lieutenant Rob Schoonover said (presumably with a straight face): "His side of the story is he felt threatened and that is the reason he took action."

He felt threatened. That old chestnut.

I feel like I'm running out of ways to write that "feeling threatened" is not a justification for violence (nor a justification for bullshit self-defense gun laws). The United States is a country with powerful systems of privilege and entrenched bigotry, where fear of the Other is continually exploited by people in power. Lots of people "feel threatened" by lots of stupid shit that is underwritten by nothing but stereotypes, straw, and ghosts.

Dunn clearly didn't "feel threatened" when he strode over to a car full of teens to demand that they turn down their admittedly loud music. And, given that there are no reports of any of the kids in the car, including Jordan Davis, having any sort of weapon, or even getting out of the car to confront him, he probably had no justification for feeling physically threatened.

I don't know what happened, but here's what I think happened: I suspect Dunn didn't "feel threatened" until after he'd gone to the car and then been (quite rightly) told to get to fuck.

I suspect Dunn walked over to the car all puffed-up and prepared to Be Respected, and instead the kids in the car refused to automatically bend to his will, and probably (quite understandably) scoffed contemptuously at his evident belief he owns the world.

I suspect that made his authority, his world view which is preciously perched on a precipice of crumbling privilege, feel threatened.

I suspect that Dunn is one of those guys who loves that whole Fox News Bill O'Reilly War on Everything "your birthright as a Real American is being eroded" shtick that grows toxic insecurity in old white conservative dudes like mold in a petri dish.

I suspect he's one of those guys, a kind of guy who unfortunately feels familiar to me, who just gets explosively enraged when people he perceives as his inferiors don't do what he wants them to do, because he thinks he has the right to demand it.

I suspect that Dunn erupted like an emotional volcano because he was fear-raging at being denied some show of deference to which he believes he's entitled, sheerly by virtue of who he is.

Or: He "snapped," as it is known in the common parlance when white men behave this way, as though it is inexplicable behavior instead of inevitable behavior when certain portions of any population are told they are special and then their frustrations at a world that treats them otherwise redirected onto scapegoats by the very tricksters who created their discordance of identity in the first place.

I suspect that the problem was not that Dunn "felt threatened" in that particular moment, but that he "feels threatened" all the time, in ways that are carelessly encouraged by all the institutions that exploit the impotent rage of people whose identities and self-worth are inextricably tied to unearned privilege, fanning the flames of their insecurity that their privilege, nay their very identities, are being eroded by nefarious Others whose very existence is an existential threat.

And I suspect that as long as the people who exist in this constant state of corrosive anxiety are the most likely to stockpile and carry weaponry, Jordan Davis will not be the last victim of a man who "feels threatened."

My heart hurts.

[H/T to Elle.]

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