The Michael Dunn Trial Verdict Sparks Renewed Debate Over Racial Injustice

The issue of racial injustice raised its ugly head again this week in the wake of the Michael Dunn trial. And like the jurors in the trial, we yet again seem deadlocked on the question of whether race plays a role in our criminal justice system.
For those not following the trial, the jury couldn’t reach a decision on the murder charge levied against Dunn for firing his gun at a group of teenagers in an SUV at a gas station in 2012, killing 17-year-old African American Jordan Davis in the process. He was convicted of attempted murder for firing at the other teens and will potentially spend 60 years in prison as a result. But the jury couldn’t agree on whether the killing of Davis was an act of self-defense on the part of Dunn…
Much like last year’s jury decision in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the debate quickly turned to questions about race. Michael Dunn wasn’t just a man who felt threatened by a group of teenagers and shot at them in self-defense, he was a white man shooting at black teenagers. African American writers like Jamelle Bouie at The Daily Beast and Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic have already argued that under the law, feeling threatened by someone because of their race can be seen as a justifiable reason for shooting them. And as Jim Wallis of Soujourners writes, “Not only do Stand Your Ground laws institutionally legitimize racism by mostly white men carried out against mostly black men, instead of reconciliation and peace, gun violence and racial fears are allowed to win the day.