I have a knowledge gap of events and news that happened between 2011-2013. It’s mostly songs, movies or light news that came out between those years, but there is two year’s worth of things that I missed because I was living in a hut in rural Africa. Big news, such as the Boston Marathon bombings or the 2012 presidential election, made it to me but much didn’t and, two years later, I’m still catching up.
It’s because of this knowledge gap that I didn’t know who Jordan Davis is, nor his story. It’s possible that I did hear the story and forgot, but I wasn’t exposed to the constant news cycles about Jordan Davis the way I was with stories about Michael Brown or Freddie Gray.
Last evening I attended a screening of the documentary “3 1/2 Minutes 10 Bullets” about the death of Jordan Davis and the trial of Michael Dunn. The story, as it intertwined from the evening Jordan was murder to the final guilty verdict of first degree murder, was all unfamiliar information to me.
After the movie, Jordan Davis’ mother and father, along with the film’s producer, took questions from a moderator and audience. His parents have bravely used their situation to be on the front lines of igniting change when it comes to gun laws and racial tension.
I wanted to ask his mother, Lucy, a question. For several minutes, I thought about getting up to the mic and waiting until it was my turn. With a shaky voice, I would start by thanking her for courageously sharing her story and then I would ask her the one question that burned through me as I watched the film: What can I do? I didn’t and just listen to the other questions.
While I was in Lesotho, I once got a ride from a couple from South Africa. The man was Afrikaans and the woman, as she told me, was Indian but her family had been living in Durban for years. As we talked, the woman started to make very racist comments about “those blacks.” It led to a discussion about an apartheid and I started in about Civil Rights and the changes in the U.S. since then. Part of me knew I was talking without good information, but I truly believed, in my own little world, that the U.S.’s racial issues had improved since the 1960s.
“You Americans, you think you are so much better than us,” she turned around from the passenger seat to look at me in the back. “You are not. You have just as many issues as we do and racism is still a major issue in your country.”
I wanted to refute that, but I knew there was truth to it. I wanted to argue that Civil Rights was several decades prior while apartheid was only two, but I couldn’t because I truly didn’t know the racial climate in my own country. Or, if I did, I chose to ignore it as a major problem.
The discussions on racial tension and gun violence in our country have opened wide up since I returned. Every time a Michael Brown or Sand Hook is dragged into the news and everyone’s fingers point in opposite directions, I go numb. I notice it until hurts, almost like touching a burner to see if it is hot, and then I turn away. I don’t post much about it on social media and I’ll mostly just listen as people bring it up in social conversations.
For most of my life, I’ve kept my opinions to myself out of fear of how I will be perceived. It’s so much easier to be a mute than be the one everyone rolls their eyes out. But as I stared at a woman and father who unjustly lost their son I realized I can’t do that anymore. My heart is so broken from the way we treat human lives in this nation that I can no longer pretend it is not happening.
I don’t know what I am going to do forward, except look for opportunities. Where I can led my voice I will. Where I can be involved in the conversation I will. Where I can be involved in the solution I will.
What can I do? I can stop ignoring.