On Jordan Davis: the wasted energy of the black teen.

When I read of the death of Jordan Davis, the black teen shot following a dispute over the loudness of the “thug music” played in his friend’s car, my first reaction was an exhausted sigh. The wells of fury and anguish are finite, and with each such injustice they evaporate a little more. As a black teen, it takes so much energy trying not to appear dangerous. It starts with planning your wardrobe, where you must avoid wearing the hoodie, a homing beacon for trouble. It moves then to the pace with which you make your way about town; neither not too slowly, else you will be accused of loitering, nor too swiftly, else you will be identified as shifty. Be polite, patient and courteous with the police as if you were meeting the Queen.  When questioned on what you are doing in the area, respond with the earnest diligence of an asylum seeker arriving at Customs, even though you may have lived in said area for most if not all of your life. When walking through the misleadingly open entrance of an esteemed institution where you do not apparently belong, wander over to the concierge to ask how you should make your way about the venue, even though you may have been there several times before. This is you giving the reassuring signal that you are grateful, nay privileged, to be on such unfamiliar and rarefied terrain.

All of this energy is wasted, because the people you are trying to persuade or accommodate are already convinced, at some level, of who or more accurately what you are. But use this energy anyway, because you will never be sure; and, if anything goes wrong in these situations, which any other person would recognise as merely trying to get from A to B, then you will only blame yourself.

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