In Florida, George Zimmerman, a wannabe cop & self-assumed neighborhood watchman in a gated community, stalked, picked a fight with, & executed a teenage boy. After a trial that only took place due to protests (he originally wasn’t even charged), he walked.
Same state. A woman fends off a violent, abusive husband by firing warning shots, striking no one. She is charged, convicted & sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Why? Simple: in the first case, the teenage boy George suspected & tracked down was black. In the second, the woman who clearly was defending herself was black. She didn’t even get to invoke “Stand Your Ground”, as it was blocked. George was let go the first time due to the cops knowing about that law & saying “oh well”, and he ended up not even needing it to get a not guilty verdict at trial when it finally happened. The very idea that Trayvon Martin was justifiably in fear of his life (well, he was clearly correct on that fear, since his life ended that night…)? Nah, not applicable. George could assume the worst of any black kids & clutch a shaky hand at his gun all he wanted, and whoever was on the other end has no choice but to damn near genuflect before him.
The point on paper for the “Stand Your Ground” laws is supposed to be to simply recognize right to self defense. In theory, this would be a rollback of state power. Yet clearly in practice what it has instead done is strengthened the hand of government by way of providing a hole for arbitrary & contradictory judgement to seep further into. As with other parts of the “justice” system, this inevitably skews by prejudices both institutional and latent, in this case racially.
George isn’t the alpha and omega to this though. Not at all. What George Zimmerman is is merely another example of a symptom of a further disease. He is just someone who aspired to be a cop and didn’t get the badge. Many have come before him, especially those with the badges and uniforms, and many will come afterwards. According to one extensive study [PDF], a black person is killed by police or their mini-mes every 28 hours. These occur because there is a latent assumption in America that blacks are by definition suspicious, dangerous, violent. The underlying American mindset is as if the entire country subscribed to a Bizzarro World version of the conclusion of Ras Kass’ “Nature of the Threat*”. This manifests itself in various ways, from the frequency of killings of blacks, to the disproportionate enforcement tactics in the “War on Drugs” towards blacks, to the cited assumptions in the run-up to the verdict that there would be blacks rioting in the streets if Zimmerman got off, even to your average little old lady clutching her purse tighter or crossing the street when a black man is walking her direction.
To an extent, there seems to me a higher, political reason for some of the above sentiment. See, as you may know from history, most blacks did not choose to come to the U.S. in the first place. From slavery, we went through Jim Crow, intentional economic sabotage & terrorism, to today with the modern prison-industrial complex. We have taken a lot of crap as a people over those few hundred years.
Frankly, I can understand if after all that, there’s a bit of fear in some circles, a bit of worry of an awaiting revenge nightmare coming true. Those people probably figure “man, they have to have some serious monk-like patience to not erupt”. Come to think of it, over that time, we’ve learned a few things. Oh yeah! This is America we’re talking about here! Coming up in the US of A is like the geopolitical violence version of training with Bruce Lee! There’s some skills floating around this here piece!
But don’t worry. We’re peaceful people. Don’t be so tense. Rather than fear we’ll wreck everything, sit down, take a deep breath… and be really, really glad we haven’t.
Have a nice day.
* – Two things about that:
1) no, I don’t agree with him on that.
2) note that a variation of that assumption is embedded in our “security”/”defense” policy: an ongoing assumption that Muslim populations are inherently threats to the U.S.