For a few hundred years we have seen the practice of white privilege operate as the guiding principle between many white people and people of color, especially African-Americans. That principle has been undermined over the past decades by the social justice struggles and continues to be diminished by the changing demographics in America.
Many white people who accepted their privilege as the standard were dealt a severe challenge by the election of an African American as president of the United States and some of them aren’t taking it well.
It is obvious that many white people voted for President Obama, but it is equally as obvious that many did not, and in that group there is a wide range of emotions that continue to be expressed that demonstrate their unwillingness to move forward and wait for their next chance to elect a president.
I am not the only observer who can clearly see that some of the things that are being said and done in response to President Obama and his way of governing are rooted in a deep sense of loss and the perceived loss of power. This sense of powerlessness continues to result in expressions of rage toward people of color, especially African- American males.
Much of this race hatred is going unreported, but in cases such as the recent murder of Jordan Davis it is a documented fact. What explanation other than rage can be given for a person shooting an unarmed teenager in a gas station parking lot because his music is too loud? In the first place, if the music is loud, perhaps the person who does not like it should consider going to another gas station. I imagine that all of us have had more than one experience of hearing loud music in someone’s car and thinking that we would rather not have to hear it, but it never occurred to us that we should kill the person.
When I first saw this headline I thought this incident happened in an apartment complex and that Michael David Dunn was a neighbor of Davis’ who was making a complaint about his music. Of course, even if that had been the case, it did not warrant bringing a weapon into the discussion.
The young people in the car with the music did not have a gun. Dunn acted upon his rage and it is difficult to believe that all of his rage was the result of that one incident.
The deep sense of loss of power that seems to have so many white people, especially men, in its grip is not to be taken lightly. While the violence is not to be tolerated, it is important to work to engage folks with feelings of powerlessness and rage with compassion and understanding. I realize that it is tough to do. I do not know how I would be able to interact with Michael David Dunn if he just shot one of my beautiful sons because of his frustration with life and the rage that he harbors. But I do know that the cycle of violence has to be broken and it is often the victims of the violence who end up taking the first step in that direction.
Dunn needs to be held accountable for his actions and a strong message needs to be sent to enraged gun carrying white men that they will not be able to use their guns on African-Americans and other people of color simply because they want the country to go back to a former time when white people were in control. That bird has left the cage and will not be returning. The old days are gone and all of us have to get used to that idea and work to move forward together as a nation of diverse people.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.