More than a few political analysts view Stand Your Ground laws, first implemented by the state of Florida in 2005, simply as part of the new “Black Codes” intended to safeguard the privileges, authority, and advantages that one demographic historically has enjoyed in contrast to another. While 33 states currently employ such laws, at least a dozen more utilize the “castle doctrine,” which cancels any requirement for a potential victim to move him- or herself out of harm’s way when possible rather than engage in violent conflict.
To be clear, there is nothing in the language of Stand Your Ground laws to indicate overt racial bias. The problem is in how race comes into play when the laws are interpreted by policemen and average citizens, acted upon by the same, and enforced in various court cases. That problem is compounded by the extremely thinly-disguised racist agenda behind the push for voter ID laws and the move to prevent passage of even the most common-sense gun safety regulations.
Issues and Shortcomings
It may not read with the thrilling pace of a Walter Mosley novel but the American Bar Association’s comprehensive study of Stand Your Ground laws across the nation does reveal a number of shortcomings where such legislation is concerned. One of the most important is the removal of the former “duty to retreat.” How likely is it that the absence of a duty to retreat increases the chances of violent or fatal outcomes?
Fear feeds on fear. On either side of a potentially violent conflict, an opportunity exists to exercise compassion and diminish fear based on recognition of each other’s humanity. Without such recognition, fear fueled by uninformed assumptions, cultural prejudice, desperation to meet basic human needs, or the panicked uncertainty of the moment explodes into violence. Stand Your Ground laws have not proven helpful when it comes to either reducing fear or resolving its consequences.
According to ABA’s report and the conclusions of many others as well (the United Nations being one of them), homicides have actually increased in those states where the laws have been implemented. The Report also takes a serious look at the following variables:
- Implicit Racial Bias
- Empirical Evidence of Racial Disparities
- Fear Experienced by Black Males in Stand Your Ground States
- Interplay between Firearms and Stand Your Ground Laws
- Innocent Bystanders & Victims
The report offers a number of conclusions that should encourage everyday citizens and lawmakers alike to advocate for corrective action. Take, for example, this one:
“Particularly relevant to the analysis of Stand Your Ground laws is the issue of implicit bias and cultural misperceptions of racial minorities as ‘more violent’ or ‘more aggressive,’ even when exhibiting the same behaviors as Caucasians.”
The report also points out the following:
“Stand Your Ground laws often exacerbate the complexity of analyzing who is the victim, particularly in violent altercations which result in fatalities.”
That deduction becomes more and more evident each time a video surfaces showing uniformed police in the U.S. acting toward defenseless citizens like Special Ops Marines zeroing in on a high-level Taliban commander.
Legislation may not guarantee of good or bad human behavior but it does impact the likelihood of people taking one action instead of another. In the case of Stand Your Ground laws and other racially-tinged legalities, the impact visibly favors one set of Americans while appearing to prep another for a repeat of some very painful episodes in American history. A country has a serious problem when lawmakers eagerly pass legislation that endangers the lives of fellow citizens rather than make their lives safer.
NEXT: 7 Ways to Help Replace Legislated Fear with Informed Compassion part 3
co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
author of Journey through the Power of the Rainbow
More on Race, Justice, and Gun Safety in America
- 7 Ways to Help Replace Legislated Fear with Informed Compassion part 1
- 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
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- 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
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