Because we care so much, George “Child Murderer” Zimmerman reminds us that he’s the real victim – as manipulative child abusers are wont to do. But let’s refocus our energies and remember that Zimmerman got off clean under a legislative and judicial system that would have thrown the book at him if he had a darker skin-tone.
The case of Michael Dunn and Jordan Davis repeats the case that George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin made clear a year ago: Guns have more rights in the United States judicial system than black youth do. Consider the fact that Zimmerman was set to go free no matter what the evidence showed according to the ways the Stand Your Ground laws were written in Florida and enacted in that court. Consider that members of the jury admitted as much. Consider the fact that Dunn went back to his car, retrieved a gun from his glove compartment, shot into a car nine times while his victims never got out of the car, kept shooting at it while they were driving away with Davis having been fatally shot, and then had the gall and practicality to claim “self-defense.” Despite the clarity that this was a case of pre-meditated murder, his jury could not figure this out for several straight days and still could not agree with that.
Consider that any time a law is written to restrict easy, unaccountable access to guns like those that Zimmerman and Dunn carried on them (but that neither Davis nor Martin had), those laws are deemed “unconstitutional” by the courts. But the constitutionality of the Stand Your Ground laws which deem one guilty unto death without evidence is never questioned. Those laws which openly oppose the fifth and fourteenth amendments where the government, not self-appointed vigilantes, is supposed to carry out such judgments and do so under the presumption of innocence.
Vigilante laws are, by nature, unconstitutional. Yet here we are, with some version of the Stand Your Ground laws in 31 states. Supported by our biggest lawmakers – not elected representatives, but big money lobbyists ALEC and the NRA.
In the United States, black and Native people are presumed guilty. This is how we got our lands and the free labor for our big ol’ capitalist empire. This is how we fill our prisons via the War on Drugs – undermining communities of color while making our White and Middle Class citizens feel somehow safer (but not really). Stand Your Ground laws are not the New Jim Crow. That’s what prison – and specifically for-profit prison – is for. Stand Your Grounds are the re-legitimizing and legal tolerance of lynching. They exist to keep Black people – the permanent underclass – in their place – as the permanent underclass.
They go so far as to protect white citizens in white neighborhoods from black women looking for help on their porches – as was the case with Theodore Wafer after he shot Renisha McBride who totaled her car and was looking for a phone to make some phone calls. She was shot while knocking on a door, through a screen door. Wafer was free for several days under the presumption of innocence for “self-defense” under the Castle Doctrine (a cousin to the Stand Your Ground laws). McBride’s innocence was questionable, her being a young black person.
Some would argue that Black people should be able to simply fire back and use the law to their advantage, to defend themselves from Zimmermans and Dunns and Wafers and other people they find to be dangerous. But that’s not the case as the trials and convictions of Marissa Alexander and Michael Giles evidence. Both Alexander and Giles were charged, in Florida again, under what is known as the 10-20-Life law, which gives a mandatory minimum of ten years for brandishing a gun in public (Zimmerman get that?), another ten for firing a gun (um…), and another five if someone was hit (well??). Alexander, despite being in fear of her husband, was given the first twenty for shooting a warning shot in her house (admittedly, not the safest) and Giles the full man-min for shooting at a man who knocked him out at a club melee (again, not the brightest thing to do).
According to (the admittedly horrible) SYG laws, Giles and Alexander should be scot-free, just like Zimmerman (who, remember, actually killed a kid). These two laws – Stand Your Ground and the 10-20-Life Mandatory Minimum – seem to be applied differently. One for white people. One for black.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The laws written by racist demagogues may not be on the side of the people, but the power of the people does belong to the people. Take to the streets. Organize. Write letters. Vote. Take action. March. Morally educate. Call offices. Overpower the forces of the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC) and other sponsors of these SYG bills. Because these so-called Dangerous Black Kids are just kids. Glorious, smart, cute, wonderful, passionate, silly, delectable, curious, mischievous, willful, smart, serious, eager kids – like other human kids. They deserve the same chances at life. Laws and courts should be making sure they are protected. As another kid – 12-year-old Madison Kimrey of the Moral Mondays rallies in North Carolina – put it:
Stand your ground. Who needs a gun to help them stand? Standing with a gun means standing in blood surrounded by injury and lifelessness. Standing requires strength and there’s no strength that comes from killing another person. These killers were not strong in anything but prejudice and violence.
Everyone wants justice. Does justice even exist if these young men died for nothing regardless of the sentence their killers serve? I’m angry and I’m sad. But that won’t change the fact I know the names of these young men because they were taken away by hate. True justice for them will be to help stop that hate.
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