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Beacon Authors on Trayvon Martin and "Stand Your Ground" Laws

In the Boston Globe, Nancy Gertner (In Defense of Women) finds fault not only with stand your ground laws, but with the way Florida's law is being applied to George Zimmerman:

Whatever the justification for the 911 call – and it was thin – nothing justified what happened afterwards, not even under Florida’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” law. Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin. Florida has led the nation with its “Stand Your Ground’’ law, despite the opposition by prosecutors and law enforcement groups. Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krisher opposed the law “because it encourages people to stand their ground .. when they could just as easily walk away. To me that’s not a civilized society.” Paul Logli, the president of the National District Attorneys Association said that these laws “give citizens more rights to use deadly force than we give police officers and with less review.” Despite the opposition, many other states followed Florida’s bad example. Indeed, such a law has recently been proposed in Massachusetts by Senator Stephen Breyer and Representative George Peterson. [Read more]

At Colorlines, Kai Wright (Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay, and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York) looks at the cultural demonization of young black men like Trayvon.

Sadly, it’s necessary to point out that there isn’t an imaginable scenario in which an armed man can shoot an unarmed child to death and it be okay. But set that obvious fact to the side. Trayvon Martin did in fact have it coming. He was born black and male in the United States and was thus marked for death. The cruelness of our economy and of our criminal justice system isn’t reserved for men or for black people. But there is a particularly gendered and particularly racist way in which black men are set upon in this country, most acutely those who don’t have the resources to push back. And it has a very long, still relevant history.

For the entirety of American history—from the first African captured and enslaved to the moment Geraldo Rivera opened his mouth to pimp Martin’s death for ratings—black men have been relentlessly caricatured as menaces to society. We were dangerous, so chattel slavery was necessary, and a nation’s wealth was born. We are still dangerous, so a police state is necessary in black neighborhoods all over this country, and the wealth of a prison-industrial complex flourishes. This is what Trayvon Martin’s murder is about. It’s not about his high school suspension. It’s not about his hoodie. It’s not even about Florida’s Kill at Will law, at least not at root. It’s about the enduring, dark fantasies to which America still clings, in order to justify a society in which more black men are locked up or on parole today than were enslaved in 1850—to pick just one of many indicators of the scale at which black men are battered. But we’re menaces; we’ve got it coming. [Read more]

At his Inheriting the Trade blog, Tom DeWolf examines the different consequences for black people and white people in our criminal justice system:

If a young black man had been walking around his neighborhood with a gun, encountered a white man, and said he felt threatened and shot him to death, he would be in jail; yes, even in Florida with the “Stand Your Ground” law in place. Throughout history, black-on-white crime has generally been investigated and prosecuted far more vigorously than has white-on-black crime. [Read more]

At, Sherrilyn Ifill (On the Courthouse Lawn) calls for us to "Stand with Trayvon's mother for justice":

The teenage rites of passage that thrill our white counterpoints send fear down a black mother's spine. When your child is old enough to walk to a friend's house in the neighborhood, it can mean the first of many stop-and-frisk encounters with the police. When they turn 18, they can now be arrested and charged as an adult for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A new driver's license and car opens the door to driving-while-black stops. Just having a flat tire in the road can end with a senseless murder, like the death of Camille and Bill Cosby's son Ennis on the Los Angeles freeway in 1997. [Read more]