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The South is part of the United States; the South is a country within a country.

The Michael Dunn-Jordan Davis Stand Your Ground murder case has been the focus of a great deal of micro-level analysis. Dunn's racist letters and claims of "victim" status have been been highlighted as evidence of his racist intent towards Jordan Davis.

An interview with Dunn's neighbors exposed his sociopathic and rageful character. Jordan Davis's family has courageously shared how they have dealt with the horror of having their teenage son stolen from them by an impulse control lacking adult--and then how the same adult was found "not guilty" of committing murder.

What do we make of African-American young people, one of which who was on Dunn's jury, that have so profoundly and deeply internalized white racism that they excuse-make for white vigilantism?

And I have wondered about how black folks should deal with a de facto state of affairs wherein Stand Your Ground laws act as legal permission for white people to shoot us dead in the street?

By contrast, there has been little if any discussion of the macro-level cultural motivations that drove Michael Dunn to shoot and murder an unarmed teenager, and to feel right and legitimate in doing so, because the latter's music was "offensive" and he dared to "talk back" to a white man.

History and context are important here. Stand Your Ground laws were birthed in the South and other parts of Red State America by the National Rifle Association and the Koch Brothers funded Right-wing lobby group ALEC.

Zimmerman killed Trayon Martin in Florida. Dunn also killed Jordan Davis in Florida.

Florida saw the highest documented percentage of African-Americans lynched in the United States.

Red State America is the Confederacy reborn. One cannot marshal the language and imagery of the Confederacy (the Confederate flag is in fact the American Swastika) under the guise of the Republican Party without channeling its ugly history of racial violence and white on black racial tyranny. White supremacy is not a buffet of attitudes and values that can be cherry picked from at one's own convenience. No. White supremacy is a philosophy and lifeworld that colors and infuses all that it touches.

The white racism--and accompanying white on black street vigilantism--that is channeled and legitimated by Stand Your Grounds laws is part of this ugly legacy.

There has been extensive research about "Southern Culture" and its relationship to notions of "honor", "manhood", race, class, and violence.

For example, Whet Moser describes how:

The U.S. is simply much more violent than other developed countries. And the region that brings up the national average is the South...

It’s not exclusively Southern states with high assault-death rates; a third chart by Healy shows that some Western and Midwestern states have higher rates than some Southern states. But by region, the difference is dramatic.

This has been the case for many, many years, and many causes have been proposed: hot weather, economic disparity, the legacy of slavery and the Civil War. In 1996, four psychologists from Midwestern universities, led by UIUC’s Dov Cohen and Michigan’s Richard Nisbett, designed a lab experiment to test if Southerners were more prone to violence, and in particular violence stemming from a “culture of honor” endemic to the region.

They ran their subjects through a battery of tests designed to provoke: bumping the subject in a hallway, calling him an “asshole,” forcing a game of “chicken” in a hallway (anecdatally, I am more likely to bump rude people on the bus or sidewalk than my friends, and am also Southern), and other subtle manhood challenges. The researchers then took qualitative and quantitative data (emphasis mine)...

After provocation, Southerners were not only more angry on the outside, they were more angry on the inside, down to their neurochemistry. (The authors also theorize that Southern politeness could be a response to Southern aggression—if Southerners are more likely to take offense than other regional cultures, it follows they would be less likely to give offense, for safety’s sake.)

The South's regional culture of masculinity, honor, and violence was carried North (and elsewhere) by the series of "great migrations" of African-Americans during the twentieth century as they moved to escape Jim and Jane Crow:
What does this have to do with Chicago, and violence in Chicago?

In 1986, Nicholas Lemann wrote a lengthy, two-part series for The Atlantic on crime and poverty in Chicago. One of the things he encountered was just how Southern Chicago is:

"Although the migration ended in the early seventies – again, because jobs had become scarce in Chicago – there is still considerable movement back and forth, and the South is very much in the minds of black Chicagoans. Most of the very successful local blacks who are held up as role models are southern-born: Jesse Jackson (South Carolina), John H. Johnson, the owner of Ebony (Arkansas), Oprah Winfrey, the TV host who appeared in The Color Purple (Mississippi), Walter Payton, of the Chicago Bears (Mississippi), the Reverend Johnnie Colemon, the pastor of the biggest church in Chicago (Mississippi). [snip]

Black Mississippians go to Chicago too. Recently, at a student assembly of a black Catholic grade school in Canton [Mississippi], I asked the children how many had been to Chicago, and nearly every hand went up. Often they went for long visits with relatives in the summers. (How many want to live in Chicago when they grow up? I asked. No hands. Why not? An immediate chorus: “Too dangerous.") At one of Chicago’s worst high schools – Orr, on the West Side – I asked a class how many were born in Chicago. Almost everyone was. But almost everyone’s mother had been born in Mississippi. Many of the mothers of a class of eighth graders at Beethoven School, an elementary school whose students all live in the Robert Taylor Homes, were from Mississippi."

Part of Lemann’s thesis, not that he ignores the effects of segregation and concentrated poverty, is that the divide between city and backcountry was also brought north: “Every aspect of the underclass culture in the ghettos is directly traceable to roots in the South – and not the South of slavery but the South of a generation ago. In fact, there seems to be a strong correlation between underclass status in the North and a family background in the nascent underclass of the sharecropper South.” Lemann also found the opposite—a correlation between middle-class status in the nascent middle-class of urban Canton and mobility in the North.

Race is central to the South's culture of violence, manhood, and honor.

Moreover, race and racism involve a sense of "group position". White supremacy demands that non-whites, and blacks in particular, "know their place".

The South developed elaborate rituals and social conventions that ranged from segregated public facilities to the social norm that black people would step off the street if whites approached, avert their eyes to the ground, and assume a natural position of subordination relative to white people.

George Zimmerman's murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida--a community that was once a "sundown town"--followed a Southern cultural logic that the black body was in a space where it did not belong. Thus, Zimmerman, a man who overly identifies with Whiteness and White Authority, felt empowered to stalk, confront, and kill Trayvon Martin.

Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis because the African-American teenager, was to his eyes, disrespectful, arrogant, and "talked back". White privilege has socialized white male adults to expect a level of natural subordination and deference from (young) people of color. Michael Dunn's honor was insulted, and his sense of Southern white manhood infringed upon, because Jordan Davis did not follow his commands.

From the lynching tree, to the present with its Stand Your Ground laws, black "arrogance" is a "crime"--one punishable by death.

Dunn's perception of insult and "reasonable" threat from a black teenager who was "armed" with rap music echoes the research on interpersonal violence and how violent aggressors may actively try to provoke conflict in order to defend their perceived sense of honor.

Randall Collins' Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory offers a chillingly accurate description of the motivations driving white street vigilantes such as Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman--men who are now empowered by Stand Your Ground laws to kill:

The second source of evidence is that in honor code situations, individuals often go looking for trouble. They are not merely defending themselves against slights, peacefully minding their own business otherwise. These are precisely the scenes or recurrent situations where people are hyper-sensitive, where they do things to provoke others, to drive them to the edge. The typical micro-scenario of honor confrontations revealed in contemporary ethnography is where someone uses a repertoire of half-insults, insolent gestures, and verbal games to provoke someone int a fight. The rhetoric and the idiom is that of honor, but here the honor code is being used provocatively, not defensively; it provides an excuse for fighting while putting the onus on the other for having behaved outrageously and thus deserving the violence that follows.
Stand Your Ground laws are a script for wanton violence in which the aggressor and bully can provoke an outcome where the victim is somehow transformed into the guilty party.

In a society where whites are 350% more likely to be found innocent of killing black people under Stand Your Ground laws, and blacks are much more likely to be given the death penalty than whites, informal Southern codes of white manhood, honor, and racial violence now have the power and protection of law.

Historian and political scientist Glenn Feldman has written extensively about what he describes as the "Southernization" of American politics where the rise of the White Right, the Tea Party, and the Republican's "Southern Strategy" have had profoundly negative consequences for the country's civic culture. In keeping with Feldman's thesis, Stand Your Ground laws are exporting the South's culture of racialized violence and "honor" to the rest of the United States.

If advocates of Stand Your Ground have their way, all of America will be the new/old South. Is that a country which most Americans would want to live in?

Originally posted to chaunceydevega on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:00 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tipped & rec'ed (8+ / 0-)

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:05:26 AM PST

  •  frightened stupid people are everywhere (4+ / 0-)

    in this case, provoking a verbal confrontation in a public place easily solved by ignoring the noise or going elsewhere, plus going to his glovebox to get a weapon, and hallucinating a non-existent shotgun doesn't excuse opening fire first on a car with unarmed occupants and continuing to shoot as the subjects were fleeing. Note that race is not mentioned here and I hope the prosecution does its job.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:08:37 AM PST

  •  Another good post. (11+ / 0-)

    This is not the main point, but so true:

    Red State America is the Confederacy reborn. One cannot marshal the language and imagery of the Confederacy (the Confederate flag is in fact the American Swastika)
    I have been saying that for a long time.  

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:15:54 AM PST

  •  Sometimes the term "honor" is turned inside-out. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP

    Nazis would say they served with "honor."  Then there are "honor" burnings/killings of women in some middle eastern cultures.  Etc.

    "Honor" really is meaningless without a context that, firstly hols respect for human life.  Otherwise someone or group is just lying to themselves, where other terms would be more reflective of reality.

    Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

    by dov12348 on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:23:12 AM PST

    •  that's the original meaning of honor (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dov12348, TomP, Billlll, sow hat, DavidMS

      For most of human history, honor had nothing to do with respect for human life (including one's own).  Quite the opposite in fact: to be a man of honor was to be always and everywhere willing to call out bad behavior, to settle differences with force, and to dominate those who were held to be your inferiors, no matter the cost to yourself or others.  Honor is a warrior virtue: meant to make men willing - even eager - to fight (and die) by elevating principles (and property) above life and limb.

      The modern idea of "the dignity of self-restraint", of shrugging off insult or defiance as beneath you and reflecting badly on the insulter, is the exception not the rule.  It had its origins in 18th Century England - ironically in response to an out-of-control dueling culture - that filtered down from the aristocracy to the English middle class, from which the Puritans were disproportionately derived.  In an American context, it's a solidly Yankee mentality, rooted in the communitarian values of insular Puritan communities that would tolerate no conflict among their members and the belief that God was the author of a man's fate (and whatever happened to you was to be accepted), that never caught hold in the South.

      Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

      by Visceral on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:50:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nice piece of history and well said. (0+ / 0-)

        I'm trying to squeeze that cult-worshipping and insular group-worshipping chaff out from what should be a more rational, objective use of the term that respects one's own life as well as the lives of others.

        Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

        by dov12348 on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 11:26:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  except it's not chaff (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dov12348

          You're trying to argue that we should all start calling oranges apples, because we like oranges and think everyone else should like oranges, but they actually like apples instead ... so if we keep calling an orange an apple, eventually the idea of 'apple' will change.

          Honor is the measure of an individual man as a successful perpetrator of violence, which earns him the respect of his equals and superiors, the obedience of his inferiors, and the fear of his enemies, thereby securing his place in the world.  That's all it's ever been.  Culture-bound specifics - whether a man of honor kills a black kid after getting sassed over loud music or kills his own daughter because she had premarital sex - are secondary.  From the point of view of an honor-bound society, the alternative is getting walked all over and having your stuff taken from you, which "proves" a man weak and denies him the respect of his own society while encouraging the alien and the predator alike.

          I don't know where you're getting "cult-worshipping and insular group-worshipping" from because that's got nothing to do with anything I've described ... unless you're confused by how it was Puritan (and Quaker and Anabaptist) Northerners who for mainly religious reasons rejected the old individualistic and violent idea of honor that's guided the white South since the beginning, in favor of selflessness and conflict-aversion.

          Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

          by Visceral on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 12:26:42 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Why are so many Americans so full of fear? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anon004, Joes Steven, TomP, Joy of Fishes

    Everyone is a potential enemy and may in fact hurt or kill me.  

    Love your neighbor and treat others the way you would like to be treated.

    How far  we have gone from caring for one another.

    •  I don't think we've really gone that far away (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TomP

      from who we've always been.  Remember, this country was founded upon the capture and forceful enslavement of Africans and genocidal and land-appropriating practices against Native Americans.

    •  You assume (0+ / 0-)

      that, in the overall, that caring was an inherent part of the makeup of this society...

      Hard to go away from something that, for many, never existed in the first place...

      Fear doesn't just breed incomprehension. It also breeds a spiteful, resentful hate of anyone and everyone who is in any way different from you.

      by awesumtenor on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 12:29:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  An excellent, insightful diary. (5+ / 0-)

    "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." - Sinclair Lewis

    by Bob Duck on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:33:32 AM PST

  •  Honor (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, TomP

    is the last refuge of a killer.

    "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

    by Steven D on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 10:55:48 AM PST

  •  Absolutely right to raise the question (0+ / 0-)

    o Southern machismo is a Thing.
    o It may or may not have accounted for Dunn. He had a record of being aggressive to white people as well. He might well have started a fight with a white teen who told him to go fuck himself. Outnumbered, he might have continued the fight with a gun.
    o Beware of explanations involving "culture". They can be right, but they can also blur individual accountability. A Korean-born  lawyer argues this point at http://askakorean.blogspot.com/...
    o Excellent point about how the Southern Strategy turned into an "only the South" strategy.

    Anyone considering a dog for personal safety should treat that decision as seriously as they would buying a gun.

    by Dogs are fuzzy on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 12:37:04 PM PST

  •  Rudyard Kipling on faux politeness (0+ / 0-)
    Et Dona Ferentes

    In extended observation of the ways and works of man,
    From the Four-mile Radius roughly to the Plains of Hindustan:
    I have drunk with mixed assemblies, seen the racial ruction rise,
    And the men of half Creation damning half Creation's eyes.

    I have watched them in their tantrums, all that Pentecostal crew,
    French, Italian, Arab, Spaniard, Dutch and Greek, and Russ and Jew,
    Celt and savage, buff and ochre, cream and yellow, mauve and white,
    But it never really mattered till the English grew polite;

    Till the men with polished toppers, till the men in long frock-coats,
    Till the men who do not duel, till the men who war with votes,
    Till the breed that take their pleasures as Saint Lawrence took his grid,
    Began to "beg your pardon" and-the knowing croupier hid.

    Then the bandsmen with their fiddles, and the girls that bring the beer,
    Felt the psychological moment, left the lit Casino clear;
    But the uninstructed alien, from the Teuton to the Gaul,
    Was entrapped, once more, my country, by that suave, deceptive drawl.

    As it was in ancient Suez or 'neath wilder, milder skies,
    I "observe with apprehension" how the racial ructions rise;
    And with keener apprehension, if I read the times aright,
    Hear the old Casino order: "Watch your man, but be polite.

    “Keep your temper. Never answer (that was why they spat and swore).
    Don't hit first, but move together (there's no hurry) to the door.
    Back to back, and facing outward while the linguist tells 'em how -
    `Nous sommes allong ar notre batteau, nous ne voulong pas un row.'"

    So the hard, pent rage ate inward, till some idiot went too far...
    "Let 'em have it!" and they had it, and the same was merry war -
    Fist, umbrella, cane, decanter, lamp and beer-mug, chair and boot -
    Till behind the fleeing legions rose the long, hoarse yell for loot.

    Then the oil-cloth with its numbers, like a banner fluttered free;
    Then the grand piano cantered, on three castors, down the quay;
    White, and breathing through their nostrils, silent, systematic, swift -
    They removed, effaced, abolished all that man could heave or lift.

    Oh, my country, bless the training that from cot to castle runs -
    The pitfall of the stranger but the bulwark of thy sons -
    Measured speech and ordered action, sluggish soul and un - perturbed,
    Till we wake our Island-Devil-nowise cool for being curbed!

    When the heir of all the ages "has the honour to remain,"
    When he will not hear an insult, though men make it ne'er so plain,
    When his lips are schooled to meekness, when his back is bowed to blows -
    Well the keen aas-vogels know it-well the waiting jackal knows.

    Build on the flanks of Etna where the sullen smoke-puffs float -
    Or bathe in tropic waters where the lean fin dogs the boat -
    Cock the gun that is not loaded, cook the frozen dynamite -
    But oh, beware my Country, when my Country grows polite!

    Bello ne credite, Americani; quidquid id est, timeo Republicanos et securitatem ferentes.

    by Sura 109 on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 03:58:54 PM PST

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