Monday, March 26, 2012

It's Complicated

David Horsey's recent cartoon and column pretty well captures a significant strand in the Trayvon Martin tragedy: that of the racism African Americans, especially young men, still endure.

Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old kid walking back to his father's house after buying a package of Skittles at a convenience store. George Zimmerman was an overzealous block watch volunteer carrying a gun. Zimmerman may have been carrying something else around with him: an attitude about black kids and where they belonged. ...

Zimmerman considered Martin a suspicious character -- at least that's what he was telling the 911 dispatcher he had on the line. He also told the dispatcher that "these ... always get away," according to a recording of the call that has been released. Then he took off running after Martin and uttered to the dispatcher a word that some listeners heard to be a racial epithet.

Martin, of course, was African American and, even though this gated neighborhood in Sanford, Fla., happened to be where his dad lived, in Zimmerman's eyes, he did not belong there.

Yes, even after electing a Black man President of the United States, our society still is wracked by racism. And, yes, it is hard to imagine this scenario playing out as it did without that racism being part of the equation. When an alleged journalist can go on national television and suggest that a young Black man wearing a hoodie is just asking to be a target, we may feign outrage at the blatant racism of the statement, but we also need to admit that the statement is sadly true.

And so, once again, our nation is revisiting one of the most painful aspects of our culture. We were due, and it is a subject that needs to be acknowledged and openly discussed. All sides need to be part of the conversation, and all sides need to listen closely to what is being said and what is not being said if we are to move beyond this morass, however glacially, into a more open society where the content of one's character really is more important than the color of one's skin or the shape of one's eyes.

But, as I suggested at the top, racism is only one part of the story. The other significant part is the Florida law which allowed George Zimmerman to walk around his neighborhood playing cop with a gun strapped to his thigh. The law enabled the racism to move beyond crude epithets to a deadly outcome, something which opponents of the law warned would happen. Now, even proponents of the law are beginning to realize that maybe that law just isn't working out as it should.

Opinions about so-called "stand your ground" legislation — at the center of the Trayvon Martin killing in Sanford, Fla. — are as vastly different as the cases in which it has been invoked since Florida in 2005 became the first state to adopt such a statute. But now, even defenders of "stand your ground" laws say they may need tweaking to clarify the stew of interpretations that critics say are letting people like George Zimmerman, who shot the unarmed 17-year-old, get away with murder. ...

Few dispute the right of people to defend themselves inside their homes. The problem comes when both parties have a right to be where an assault has occurred, as in the Martin case, said Jacksonville, Fla., defense attorney Eric Friday, who lobbied for "stand your ground." "You fall back on who was the aggressor," he said.

That forces prosecutors "to prove the person is not reasonable" when someone opens fire, said Sam Hoover, an attorney at the Legal Community Against Violence in San Francisco, which opposes the laws. "It makes it hard in cases, including the Trayvon Martin case, to arrest the individual who killed him."
[Emphasis added]

As I pointed out in an earlier post on this story, anyone with two functioning brain cells could have predicted that the law would bring forth a tragedy like this one. Tweaking it by giving the local constabulary the power to arrest the last man standing isn't going to change anything. Yes, at least George Zimmerman would not be walking around a free man while he awaited trial on the issues, but Trayvon Martin would still be dead. That's as warped a view of justice as I can imagine.

Contrary to the opinion of the all-sanctified holy NRA, the Second Amendment is not about the right to walk around town wearing a gun to shoot anyone who looks threatening, hoodie or not. It's time that organization and its bought-and-paid-for politicians are brought to heel. It's time to repeal this type of law and others like it. It is enabling legislation of the worst kind.

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Blogger John Gardner said...

i'm gonna disagree with you on this one.

like many others, i believe this to be a tragedy, and complete mis-application of the law. Is this a "stand your ground" case? no way. He wasn't protecting himself, he was acting as pseudo-law enforcement, and so he should be treated as such.

your statement from before, "Anyone with two working brain cells could have foreseen that some nutter..."

As soon as you use the word "nutter" in there, you have to throw away all other rationality. Nutty people don't care about laws.

I bet he didn't care about the law. he was doing what his crazy mind says he was supposed to do, not what the law says he is allowed to do.

And wow, this "new" law is such a huge problem. Where are all the other examples of racist nutballs shooting people in their neighborhoods over the last seven years of the law's existence? From the coverage, it would seem that thousands of people have been killed by racists. Where are all of the racists in the other twenty states that have similar laws?

10:12 AM  
Blogger John Gardner said...

And more fuel for the fire. If you get suckerpunchad and someone is bashing your head into the sidewalk, are you allowed to fight back?

"With a single punch, Trayvon Martin decked the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who eventually shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old, then Trayvon climbed on top of George Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times, leaving him bloody and battered, authorities have revealed to the Orlando Sentinel."

Oh, wait, he wasn't having his head bashed into the sidewalk inside his own home, so no, he's not allowed to defend himself.

1:21 PM  

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