Dear Florida

Dear Florida,

It’s one of your natives sons. There are so many beautiful things about my former home state. We’ve got natural wonders both inland and beachside. There are many people that come together to make the state a welcoming place for so many visitors. There is culture. There are excellent institutions of higher learning. There is something magical about the wind that comes off the Gulf of Mexico on a hot summer night. It’s been a long time and you should know that I miss you on some days. Today is not one of those days.

This letter started on positive notes and that was very hard for me to do because today was a reminder of the sickening lapse of justice that is ever-present in the Florida judicial system. Jordan Davis was shot and killed by a man who intended for him to die. I’m not here to debate whether Michael Dunn should have been charged with 2nd degree murder or 1st degree murder because the facts are that he killed Jordan Davis in broad daylight with witnesses. He fired his weapon into a car with four young men inside of it. He made that decision because he didn’t like their “thug music.” He has been found guilty for attempted murder of Tevin Thompson, Leland Brunson, and Tommie Stornes. Dunn wrote letters while in jail that display the lack of value he places on non-white human life. While Dunn will be going to prison for a long sentence he won’t be going for murder and that’s what should happen when you take someone’s life intentionally.

Today’s miscarriage of justice reminds me of a couple of other recent stories where the law of the land does not seem to apply the same way to every person. Marissa Alexander fired a warning shot into the ceiling of her home during a fight with her abusive husband who she had a restraining order against. Marissa was not allowed to use Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in her defense because the judge said that she had other options. The case also slightly reminds me of the case against George Zimmerman in which he was able to walk away free from any repercussions for taking the life of Trayvon Martin.

The clear message that I’m hearing is that we do not value the lives of all Floridians. We do not use the law appropriately to hold all Floridians accountable to the lives they have taken. We do not protect survivors of domestic violence; we use existing laws against them. Stand your ground is not equally applied. Murder convictions are not equally applied.

I’m a Floridian and I’m angry about this. I don’t have a vote in the state any more but I still care. I can’t propose constitutional amendments through voter initiative but I can promote them. The state government doesn’t have to listen to me or take me seriously since I’m not a constituent but I will speak out. I’ll speak because the judicial system is clearly broken and I know Florida can be a better home than that. Florida needs to be the same home to all Floridians that it was to me.

I will speak out until the opportunities offered to me are offered to everyone, everywhere. I will speak out until the way that until we don’t have to fear for the lives of young people when they want a snack or need to buy gas. I can wear a hoodie without being considered suspicious. I know that I can go get a snack without being afraid for my life. I know that I can gas up my car with whatever music I want without fearing for my life. If justice is love in public; I’ve always been loved. I’ve always been welcomed. I have always had my privilege to protect me and lean back on. I will speak until things change because this is ridiculous.

Sincerely from one of your privileged sons,