The recently-released Preliminary Report and Recommendations by the American Bar Association National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws contains a lot of powerful observations by informed and influential individuals. One of those individuals is Florida State Sen. Dwight Bullard (D-Miami), who shares a comment which current racial tensions in America would indicate is true enough but which might also be considered a major understatement:
“…The idea that we are creating a precedent in which the lives of African American men are summarily devalued in a society, that over its existence, has placed monetary value on those same lives but now has gotten to a point where that same life has zero value is overly problematic.”
The word “overly” serves the good senator well.
More than half the states in America (currently 33) have laws which allow one individual to take the life of another and get away with it simply by saying he or she feared the person represented an immediate danger to his or her life. That argument in recent years has been used in a number of high profile cases where exactly who posed a danger to whom was not at all clear.
Nevertheless, in the end it has been an African American (usually unarmed) who lost his or her life to a White American (usually armed––in the case of Trayvon Martin’s death George Zimmerman’s biracial background is duly noted), creating an apparent trend. Even mainstream media with its upbeat pop culture delivery has found it impossible to ignore the increase in that trend and consequently joined the ranks of those shouting for solutions to the problem.
In this particular case, fixing it means correct the tendency to give fear authority over one’s actions when encountering those perceived of as “different.” Also, in this particular case, it means not exploding like a suicide bomber in the face of inevitable change and opting instead to invest in informed compassion toward one’s fellow human beings. Strangely enough, with all the gun-related violence that has occurred on American soil over the past year, one might think Stand Your Ground laws would place among the more debated issues during 2014 midterm elections. They are not.
An Ominous Iceberg
Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Kajieme Powell only a few miles from the same location, Renisha McBride just outside Detroit, Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, and Eric Garner in New York are but a fraction of the tip of a very ominous iceberg.
In each of the above cases, as well as many others in the recent past and some currently pending, fear was cited as a legitimate reason for taking a life. What is so strange is that also in every instance the greater threat apparently came from the person armed with a loaded gun. Yet fear as likely experienced by the person without a gun seems unworthy of serious consideration in the eyes of supposedly blind justice.
The FBI’s often-cited report on homicides revealed that 2 African-American men on the average are killed weekly by policemen. Expert analysts, however, consider this figure less than the actual number because of flaws in the system for reporting such deaths. Moreover, consider the lives of the estimated 1 million incarcerated African American men condemned to existence as social zombies and a very sinister portrait emerges.
NEXT: 7 Ways to Start Replacing Legislated Fear with Informed Compassion part 2
author of The Wisdom of W.E.B. DuBois
co-author of ELEMENTAL The Power of Illuminated Love
More on Race, Justice, and Gun Safety in America
- States that Have Stand Your Ground Laws
- UN Condemns Police Brutality and Calls for Stand Your Ground Review
- American Bar Association Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice
- NAACP Wants Hammond Officers Fired or Retrained over Stun Gun Incident
- Trayvon Martin, Robert Lee, and Millions of Tears Fallen Part 1
- Notebook on Michael Brown, Kajieme Powell, and W.E.B. Du Bois Part 1
- Trayvon’s Mom Writes Letter to Parents of Slain Ferguson Teen
- Exactly How Often Do Police Shoot Unarmed Black Men?
- Justice remains elusive in case of newly-freed Louis C. Taylor Part 1
- 4th of July 2013 and Notes on Race and Racism in Savannah Georgia Part 1
- Notes on the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation Part 1