As most of you folks have probably heard by now, Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” act is embroiled in a huge debate in the aftermath of the unjustified shooting death of Floridian teen, Trayvon Martin, who was gunned down by George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman, in Sanford, FL. The SYG law allows people who are fearing for safety to basically meet force with force, allowing those being attacked or encroached on to react in a violent way to preserve their own safety. This particular incident, however, makes light of that law and allows Zimmerman, who had made dozens of 911 calls prior to this shooting, to basically engage in vigilantism and extinguish the life of a 17 year old black male, who was profiled by Zimmerman, for wearing a hooded sweatshirt inside the confines of a gated Florida community where Martin’s father was living with his girlfriend.
From all accounts, Zimmerman acted as a loose cannon, who was known to 911 dispatchers for calling an exorbitant amount of times, essentially laying in wait to dish out vigilante justice. Martin wore a hoodie, carried Skittles and a can of iced tea into the community, where Zimmerman followed him in his black SUV, pistol loaded and by his side. The 911 tape was released to the public, and trained audio specialists and linguists were able to ascertain audio of Zimmerman saying something along the lines of “fucking coons, they always get away.” For those unaware, “coon” is a derogatory term for black folks.
Now, aside from the fact that Zimmerman essentially stalked his prey, instigating a confrontation, scuffling with Martin, then shooting him in the chest, the Stand Your Ground law is null and void. Zimmerman was in no actual danger – he was being an overzealous, gun-toting, unlicensed neighborhood watch VOLUNTEER. The story itself has racial overtones, as this mixed Florida community seems to be well-off, as this neighborhood was gated and required an access code to gain entrance. Obviously Trayvon had the code, so he was able to enter. It’s also come to light that Zimmerman, although having a German last name, is of Hispanic descent.
Here’s where the conversation itself begins to get interesting, clouded, and fueled by bigotry and ignorance – according to the message boards and other avenues of discussion, it’s widely believed that Hispanics CAN’T engage is racism/racist acts because they, too, are a minority, along with blacks. Wait – so people of different nationalities can’t be racist/separatists towards other cultures? Why is it that people always overstate the fact that whites/blacks don’t exactly co-exist harmoniously, but Hispanics who don’t like whites or black, or Asians can’t be looked at the same way? There’s a prevalent theme of separatism that still exists today. Whereas Southern whites who want division from blacks in their communities are looked at as racist, who’s to say that the ideology of hatred toward those of a different culture/skin tone/language, etc., doesn’t get looked at the same way as “white vs. black”?
People who overstate that “only liberals play the race card” when color is obviously the defining factor for cultural bias and hatred, are themselves, bigoted and misinformed. The life of a teenaged black man in a hugely divisive community in a Southern state was prematurely taken due to the thought (in the mind of a gun-wielding, chip on the shoulder, untrained neighborhood watchman) that being black, wearing a hoodie, and being in a gated community was a crime in itself.
People have stated that I’m a race baiter. That I encourage discussion based on the fact that opposites get involved in a dispute and one dies, so I pull the race card to make it a racial issue. If there was a black watchman that saw a white teen in a hoodie in the community, there probably wouldn’t be a stir of contention amongst anyone. The fact that it’s abundantly obvious that race was the motivating factor – from Zimmerman sitting on the phone with 911 dispatch, uttering a racial slur, then continuing to pursue Martin after being told by dispatch that it’s “not necessary”, engaging in a scuffle which ended with the pistol being discharged into Martin’s chest – all of this could have been avoided.
Supporters of Martin’s family organized the “Million Hoodie March”, in remembrance and in an effort to show that just because a hooded sweatshirt is being worn, it shouldn’t give right to people thinking that they’re criminals or involved in any illegalities that would justify pursuit, bending of an already stretched to the max law, or profiling. I wear hoodies proudly. Have I been profiled? Yes! Am I a criminal? Nope, just looked at differently and in a different light due to my choice of attire. Profiling is a danger game and sets a dangerous precedent for what’s appropriate for people to do.
Without the Stand Your Ground law, Zimmerman would be viewed as a cold-blooded killer. Prosecuted by a jury of his peers and possibly hit with federal hate crime charges, based on his choice words used on the phone with dispatch, in an effort to slander and belittle a group of people based on their skin tone. But due to the fact that this law in essence protects him from being viewed, charged, or jailed as such, Zimmerman is nowhere to be found, without Sanford PD looking to press charges. Although the police are in contact with the grand jury as to decide whether or not to indict Zimmerman on any of the following charges: manslaughter; murder; assault and battery; stalking/harassment, etc., he’s free to his own travels and will probably never see the inside of a jail cell, much less the wooden confines of a courtroom.
Justice hasn’t been, and probably will never be, served in this particular case. It does, however, open the opportunity for a dialogue as to whether this law should be revised or wiped away completely. Oh, and more food for thought – Massachusetts state legislators are looking to enact the Stand Your Ground law here as well. I’m sure the murder rate won’t increase tho…right?