I made a mistake this morning.
I turned on HBO and saw that a documentary was on. I didn’t know what it was about, but decided to watch anyway. Turned out, it was called ‘3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets’ and was about the murder of Jordan Davis, and the so-called ‘Thug Music Murder Trial’. You remember the one–in Jacksonville, Florida, a man claimed that after asking four Black teenagers in an SUV to turn down their music, they responded in a manner so threatening he felt justified in pulling his weapon from his glove box and emptying it into the side of their vehicle, killing 17-year old Jordan Davis.
I watched key scenes from the trial and I studied the faces of Jordan Davis’ parents as they listened to the evidence and tried to remain stoic. They had the drawn looks of people whose features have become fixed in sadness and grief, and who are long past pretending otherwise, their eyes somnolent and almost lifeless. I’ve never been so sorry I turned on a television as I was in that moment. Selfishly, I feared that the memory of the looks on Jordan Davis’ parents faces would ruin my day; and then reminded myself that their lives had been ruined. So, I decided to honor their pain by simply bearing witness to it, and watching the documentary through to the end.
Jordan Davis’ father spoke of hearing from Trayvon Martin’s Dad, welcoming him into “the club no one wants to belong to.” His son, too, was killed when he was seventeen. And his son, also had his character assassinated after his death just as his body had been assassinated. I was relieved when it seemed the film was about to end, with a montage of shots from Jordan’s life, from his birth until his death, reminding me that he was somebody’s newborn, their toddler, their teenager. But he would never become their adult son.
Then just tonight, I hear the name LaQuan McDonald. Also seventeen. Also dead for no other reason than that we live in a society where Black boys are not allowed to be boys. There’s a dashcam video of his execution–this time, 16 bullets, almost one for every year of LaQuan’s life. I watched that too, to bear witness. And I was sorry I did.
I tried to reach back and remember the Jordan Davis documentary and its intended-to-be-triumphant closing sequence — a video filmed with a cellphone, of Jordan, riding in a car with his friends, listening to rap music, bopping his head to the beat. Then the final shot of the film, of Jordan’s father, watching that video, wiping tears from his eyes and then finally, smiling. And with determined optimism, he nods his own head in sync with the music, and with his son. I wish I could say I felt the same optimism.
But I don’t.
I just can’t stop thinking about them. Trayvon. Jordan. LaQuan. And I don’t even want to consider how many more names we’ll never know.