Melissa Harris Perry Claims Fla. Shooting Shows That This Is no Country for Young Black men

This undated photo provided by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office shows Michael David Dunn, 45, who is charged with murder and attempted murder in the Nov. 23 shooting at a Jacksonville, Fla., gas station. (AP Photo/Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office)

Michael David Dunn, 45, on Nov. 23 parked at Jacksonville, Fla., gas station beside an SUV occupied by 17-year-old Jordan Davis and three other young men.

Jordan and his friends were playing loud music, something that Dunn didn’t care for. The 45-year-old told them to turn it down, according to police, and that’s when Davis and Dunn got into a heated exchange.

What happened next is still under investigation: As the war of words escalated, Dunn claims he saw a shotgun through the tinted windows of Davis’ SUV. He claims he felt threatened so he opened fire on the car.

“Dunn exchanged words with Davis, who was in the back seat, and started firing. He later told police he felt threatened. His attorney has said Dunn … shot in self-defense,” the Associated Press reports.

Davis was hit and killed.

Dunn was arrested one day later and is now being charged with murder and attempted murder.

MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry on Saturday claimed that the recent shooting of Davis, an African-American teenager, by Dunn, an “older white man,” confirms what she has long suspected: This is “no country for young black men.”

Watch:

Here’s a transcript of her monologue [via NewsBusters]:

The police acted the very next day. A man was arrested, charged and is in custody, being held without bond. So this, the alleged shooting of Jordan Russell Davis by Michael David Dunn is not that, the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

But in so many other aspects of this case the parallels are undeniable. Another 17-year-old African-American boy shot and killed. The alleged assailant, an older white man, say he felt threatened. Although the boy he’s accused of shooting was reportedly unarmed. Another claim of self-defense to justify the killing. Another pair of grieving parents losing a child and seeking justice. And again, that since for those of us who know them and love them that this is no country for young black men, which is why this week I am addressing my open letter to whom it may concern. It is me, Melissa. And if you are like me, this latest news has got you concerned, indeed.

Because here we are again. It’s been barely a year since the killing of Trayvon Martin resurrected that old angst, long buried, but always there just below the surface, you know, that feeling. It’s the one that makes us hear about Trayvon, now Jordan Davis, and reach back across decades into our history for the name of another boy named Emmett Till. Then, it was a whistle at a white woman. Now, it’s a hooded sweatshirt or music being played loudly from a car, but always this. One thing has been the same. No presumption of innocence for young black men, no benefit of the doubt, guilt, not determined by what they did or said, but presumed to be inherent in their very being. They need not wield the weapon to pose a threat, because if you are a young black man, you are threat enough. And in yet another case, it seems that perceived threat is justification enough for someone who would play judge, and jury and executioner.

Jordan Russell Davis will be laid to rest today. His father described his son as a typical teenager who was looking forward to starting his first job working at McDonald’s, who was saving up to buy his first car. The day before he died, his mother says, he gave the Thanksgiving dinner prayer where he gave thanks for his family. But before Jordan could be eulogized at his funeral, the defense team for the man who was accused of killing him was already telling a different story about this young man and who he was.

According to police, Jordan and his three friends were sitting in an SUV at a Jacksonville gas station. When Dunn pulled up next to them and asked them to turn down their music. Words were exchanged and this story, Dunn’s attorney, Robin, tells us, about why her client felt threatened.

“He sees that much of a shotgun coming up over the rim of the SUV and all he sees are heavily tinted front windows that are up and the back windows are down. And the car has at least four black men in it, and he doesn’t know how old anyone is. And he doesn’t know anything, but he knows a shotgun when he sees one. And he’s got his first gun as a gift from his grandparents when he was a kid in the third grade. And …”

Police have no evidence that Jordan and his friends had any weapon in their car. But Michael David Dunn, a registered gun owner did have one. He used his gun to fire eight rounds into the boys’ vehicle. Two of those bullets struck and killed Jordan Davis, who was sitting in the back seat. Dunn fled the scene. These are the facts as we know them today. As the investigation continues, details will no doubt continue to emerge. But as we watch the case unfold, let us be sure while we are watching that we continue to see in Jordan Davis what Michael Dunn did not, a human being, not a threat. Sincerely, Melissa.

As of this writing, as Harris-Perry notes, authorities as still investigating the shooting.

Dunn has entered a plea of “not guilty.”

As tragic as this entire episode is, perhaps it would be better for Harris-Perry to wait until a court of law has examined the case — and until the investigation concludes — before she claims this incident shows the country is prejudiced against young African-American males.

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This story has been updated.