AFRICANGLOBE – The South is part of the United States; the South is a country within a country.
The Michael Dunn-Jordan Davis Stand Your Ground murder case has been the focus of a great deal of micro-level analysis. Dunn’s racist letters and claims of “victim” status have been been highlighted as evidence of his racist intent towards Jordan Davis.
An interview with Dunn’s neighbors exposed his sociopathic and rageful character. Jordan Davis’s family has courageously shared how they have dealt with the horror of having their teenage son stolen from them by an impulse control lacking adult–and then how the same adult was found “not guilty” of committing murder.
What do we make of African-American young people, one of which who was on Dunn’s jury, that have so profoundly and deeply internalized White racism that they excuse-make for White vigilantism?
And I have wondered about how Black folks should deal with a de facto state of affairs wherein Stand Your Ground laws act as legal permission for white people to shoot us dead in the street?
By contrast, there has been little if any discussion of the macro-level cultural motivations that drove Michael Dunn to shoot and murder an unarmed teenager, and to feel right and legitimate in doing so, because the latter’s music was “offensive” and he dared to “talk back” to a White male.
History and context are important here. Stand Your Ground laws were birthed in the South and other parts of Red State America by the National Rifle Association and the Koch Brothers funded Right-wing lobby group ALEC.
Zimmerman killed Trayon Martin in Florida. Dunn also killed Jordan Davis in Florida.
Florida saw the highest documented percentage of Black-Americans lynched in the United States.
Red State America is the Confederacy reborn. One cannot marshal the language and imagery of the Confederacy (the Confederate flag is in fact the American Swastika) under the guise of the Republican Party without channeling its ugly history of racial violence and White on Black racial tyranny. White supremacy is not a buffet of attitudes and values that can be cherry picked from at one’s own convenience. No. White supremacy is a philosophy and lifeworld that colors and infuses all that it touches.
The White racism–and accompanying White on Black street vigilantism–that is channeled and legitimated by Stand Your Grounds laws is part of this ugly legacy.
There has been extensive research about “Southern Culture” and its relationship to notions of “honor”, “manhood”, race, class, and violence.
For example, Whet Moser describes how:
The U.S. is simply much more violent than other developed countries. And the region that brings up the national average is the South…It’s not exclusively Southern states with high assault-death rates; a third chart by Healy shows that some Western and Midwestern states have higher rates than some Southern states. But by region, the difference is dramatic.
This has been the case for many, many years, and many causes have been proposed: hot weather, economic disparity, the legacy of slavery and the Civil War. In 1996, four psychologists from Midwestern universities, led by UIUC’s Dov Cohen and Michigan’s Richard Nisbett, designed a lab experiment to test if Southerners were more prone to violence, and in particular violence stemming from a “culture of honor” endemic to the region.
They ran their subjects through a battery of tests designed to provoke: bumping the subject in a hallway, calling him an “a-hole,” forcing a game of “chicken” in a hallway (anecdatally, I am more likely to bump rude people on the bus or sidewalk than my friends, and am also Southern), and other subtle manhood challenges. The researchers then took qualitative and quantitative data (emphasis mine)…
After provocation, Southerners were not only more angry on the outside, they were more angry on the inside, down to their neurochemistry. (The authors also theorize that Southern politeness could be a response to Southern aggression—if Southerners are more likely to take offense than other regional cultures, it follows they would be less likely to give offense, for safety’s sake.)
The South’s regional culture of masculinity, honor, and violence was carried North (and elsewhere) by the series of “great migrations” of African-Americans during the twentieth century as they moved to escape Jim and Jane Crow:
What does this have to do with Chicago, and violence in Chicago?In 1986, Nicholas Lemann wrote a lengthy, two-part series for The Atlantic on crime and poverty in Chicago. One of the things he encountered was just how Southern Chicago is:
“Although the migration ended in the early seventies – again, because jobs had become scarce in Chicago – there is still considerable movement back and forth, and the South is very much in the minds of Black Chicagoans. Most of the very successful local Blacks who are held up as role models are southern-born: Jesse Jackson (South Carolina), John H. Johnson, the owner of Ebony (Arkansas), Oprah Winfrey, the TV host who appeared in The Color Purple (Mississippi), Walter Payton, of the Chicago Bears (Mississippi), the Reverend Johnnie Colemon, the pastor of the biggest church in Chicago (Mississippi). [snip]
Black Mississippians go to Chicago too. Recently, at a student assembly of a Black Catholic grade school in Canton [Mississippi], I asked the children how many had been to Chicago, and nearly every hand went up. Often they went for long visits with relatives in the summers. (How many want to live in Chicago when they grow up? I asked. No hands. Why not? An immediate chorus: “Too dangerous.”) At one of Chicago’s worst high schools – Orr, on the West Side – I asked a class how many were born in Chicago. Almost everyone was. But almost everyone’s mother had been born in Mississippi. Many of the mothers of a class of eighth graders at Beethoven School, an elementary school whose students all live in the Robert Taylor Homes, were from Mississippi.”
Part of Lemann’s thesis, not that he ignores the effects of segregation and concentrated poverty, is that the divide between city and backcountry was also brought north: “Every aspect of the underclass culture in the ghettos is directly traceable to roots in the South – and not the South of slavery but the South of a generation ago. In fact, there seems to be a strong correlation between underclass status in the North and a family background in the nascent underclass of the sharecropper South.” Lemann also found the opposite—a correlation between middle-class status in the nascent middle-class of urban Canton and mobility in the North.
Race is central to the South’s culture of violence, manhood, and honor.