Like Senior Pastor John Guns (pictured), I’m a firm believer in operating in the world exactly as it is versus the way in which you think it ought to be. Whimsical thinking has its limitations, especially for any person of color met with the realities of White supremacy and institutionalized racism. Still, even in the Jacksonville pastor’s recent thoughtful sermon aimed squarely at Black youth under the age of 21, I couldn’t help but find myself both angry and sad. Once again, Black people are being told that the issue of racism is mostly theirs alone to contend with.
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Guns has been spending time watching the Michael Dunn murder trial from the courtroom and used Dunn’s killing of Jordan Davis as the basis for this week’s sermon.
Guns explained (via First Coast News):
‘I think it was wrong. I think he should be convicted, but I ain’t confident and that bothers me,’ Guns said about Michael Dunn shooting Jordan Davis. Guns said that is because questions are being raised trying to make the victim, Jordan Davis, become the problem.
Some people have labeled you before you even open your mouth,” Guns told the boisterous crowd.
Guns is behind Save Our Sons — a group designed to equip teenage males, particularly African Americans — with the life skills needed to be successful and productive.
He said America can’t handle dreads and baggy pants sometimes worn by Black youths. It is an unfair perception, but one they have to deal with, Guns said.
‘There is a perception that comes with it, so I need you to figure out that the most important thing for you is to get home. Sometimes you gotta walk away,’ Guns said with sweat pouring down his face.
At one point Guns brought a young man on stage and pulled his hooded sweatshirt over his head.
‘When you walk in the store, take your hood off,’ he said as he pulled the hood off the boy’s head. ‘Why? Because it is better to walk out the store. I am trying to get ya’ll to understand you don’t win if you die at 18! You only win if you die at 90.’
I may not have been in the courtroom, but I’ve been watching the trial and Michael Dunn is defiant in his belief that he did absolutely nothing wrong. Dunn maintains that he shot 17-year-old Davis in self-defense after the two argued about loud music emanating from the Dodge Durango that Davis and his three friends sat in. He’s also not remorseful about his murder of Jordan Davis, a child.
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Prosecutor John Guy asked Dunn, “You thought everybody in the car was a thug?” Dunn replies, “The way they acted, yes I did.” Guys asks if he’s familiar with 911, and he answered yes. And yet, “When you were at the hotel you didn’t bother calling the police…you called the pizza man.” Dunn says he called the day after.
The same goes for his wife who said, “I hate that thug music.”
I hate White people who act like thugs, but get the pleasure of never being assumed to be one — even after they kill a child in cold blood.
Dunn, ever smug, also said at one point, “Again, I knew I had done nothing wrong.” Dunn did show some sense of feelings, though, but only when discussing his French bulldog, Charlie.
Watch a gunshot expert testify in the Dunn trial here:
Needless to say, while I’m all for preparing Black youth for the cruelty of the world, I’m not sure if Guns’ remarks truly will be of service. They are well-intentioned, but at this point, don’t we have enough evidence that simply removing our hoods and cutting our locks and pulling up our pants won’t stop any White man with a bias and a gun from shooting us dead if he so pleases to?Trayvon Martin tried to escape his problem, but his problem chased him down, fought him, shot him dead and has since taken the notoriety he attained from murdering a Black teenager and tried to spin it into 15 minutes of fame.
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Nineteen-year-old Renisha McBride didn’t want any problems, only help, but that didn’t stop Theodore Wafer from shooting her in the face with a shotgun.
So I’m not convinced that had Jordan Davis simply turned his music down, Michael Dunn would’ve simply let him be. Even if he did, who is to say that he wouldn’t have just ultimately killed some other “less mannered” Black teenager and proceeded to flee the scene, return to his hotel to order a pizza, and watch a movie?
I don’t necessarily know what to tell these Black teens either, so I do applaud Guns’ efforts. But again, what he told them does make me dually sad and angry. Even if you live by Guns’ advice, as a Black man or woman, your humanity is not only questioned, it is valued less. The dangers that come with that are frighteningly apparent.
I hate that our best line of defense is purportedly to run and just hope that problem doesn’t scurry after you with a gun.
It all feels as though we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
Michael Arceneaux is from the land of Beyoncé, but now lives in the city of Master Splinters. Follow him at @youngsinick.
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