One of my favorite Jiu jitsu professors will often say in class,
“I know this isn’t on the syllabus, but I feel I would be remiss if I failed to mention this…”
That’s how I feel about this topic. As a Social Scientist, I feel the need to at least mention my thoughts on this pivotal case. Not that my opinion matters at all, but it is mine.
So, unless you’ve been under a rock, or in a foreign country, you are undoubtedly familiar with the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case. If not, Google it. It’s quite interesting from a law perspective, as well as a social one.
So, it seemed that a lot of people were shocked by the verdict. I, however, was not. While every fabric of my being tells me that in a court of reason, Zimmerman was undoubtedly guilty.
For the sake of discussion, let us for the moment forget the situation of race as it pertains to this situation.
An adult male viewed, and then began following a teenage male. The adult male, also armed, confronted the teenage boy. A physical altercation then ensued, resulting in the teenager being shot and dying.
And the person who instigated the situation, even after being told to cease and desist said activity by a 911 operator, is innocent?
Oh yes….Stand your ground. The stand your ground law was what allowed Zimmerman to be declared not guilty.
A stand-your-ground law is a type of self-defense law that gives individuals the right to use reasonable force to defend themselves without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation. It is law in certain jurisdictions within the United States. The basis may lie in either statutory law and or common law precedents. One key distinction is whether the concept only applies to defending a home or vehicle, or whether it applies to all lawfully occupied locations. Under these legal concepts, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations and the “stand your ground” law would be a defense or immunity to criminal charges and civil suit. The difference between immunity and a defense is that an immunity bars suit, charges, detention and arrest. A defense, such as an affirmative defense, permits a plaintiff or the state to seek civil damages or a criminal conviction but may offer mitigating circumstances that justify the accused’s conduct
More than half of the states in the United States have adopted the Castle doctrine, that a person has no duty to retreat when their home is attacked. Some states go a step further, removing the duty of retreat from other locations. “Stand Your Ground”, “Line in the Sand” or “No Duty to Retreat” laws thus state that a person has no duty or other requirement to abandon a place in which he has a right to be, or to give up ground to an assailant. Under such laws, there is no duty to retreat from anywhere the defender may legally be. Other restrictions may still exist; such as when in public, a person must be carrying firearms in a legal manner, whether concealed or openly.
While in my mind, Zimmerman was the assailant, the jury didn’t see it that way, and he thus had “no duty to retreat” when the teenager allegedly attacked him.
And yet I think.. How would I react if a guy was following me, and then confronted me about where I was going and what I was doing.
My initial thought, I assume, is that I would fear for my safety. If the guy isn’t wearing a badge, he’s obviously got some problems..and at that point, I truly believe that I would make a reasonable verbal effort to make him leave me alone, and if ignored, would make a concerted effort to knock his dick in the dirt.
And if he then shot me dead… He’s in the right?
And so, let’s throw race back in the mix.
So many people can attempt to live a pipe dream, but the fact of the matter is that race relations in America are still not what I would call good. It’s still a very volatile topic.
Racism is still alive and well in 2013 America, and the fact that so many people want to believe it isn’t an issue is what makes it such a treacherous time for race relations.
How does the saying go, “The greatest trick the Devil ever did was convincing people that he doesn’t exist,” or something like that.
But let’s think about it from a historical perspective:
The Atlantic Slave Trade ran for approximately 400 years
We are only 148 or so years removed from the American Civil War, as well as the abolition of slavery.
The last anti-miscegenation law( ban on interracial marriage) was struck down 48 years ago.
56 years removed from school racial integration.
57 years removed from Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus…and Emmett Till was murdered for reportedly whistling at a white woman only a few months earlier
50 years since the racially motivated church bombing that killed 4 little girls.
60 years ago, blacks in America were oppressed, terrorized, and subjugated at every twist and turn.
I think we simply haven’t had enough time to move ourselves away from those cultural norms, particularly in the south, where that animosity and hatred ran so deep, on both sides of the fence…and Florida is still the south…and chest deep in racism.
A dear friend of mine who lives in Cocoa, Florida recently had a woman tell her that her interracial daughters made her sick.
I wasn’t surprised over what happened in Florida, because the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I was dismayed, and slightly horrified…but not surprised. Hopefully, this case will have some positive results, in causing good discussion and debate, and further understanding about America…as it truly is, and about how we someday hope it will be.