Stand Your Ground

George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. Apparently he was allowed to “stand his ground” against a young man whom he deemed dangerous by virtue of the fact that the boy was African-American and wearing a hoodie. Trayvon, it seems, was not allowed to stand his ground against the man who was stalking him, first by car and then on foot, because, you know, white people aren’t dangerous. Until they kill you.

What I want to know now is what I’m supposed to tell my daughter, an African-American teenager. Maybe, since she’s a girl, she won’t be seen as quite so threatening by white strangers on the street. Maybe, when she starts driving, she won’t be pulled over by the cops for “driving while Black” – at least not as often as if she were a boy. (Lord, here I was just worried about when my teen starts driving because, you know, Teens. Driving.) Maybe she will just be followed in stores when she goes shopping. Maybe men will just make assumptions about the sexual availability of my beautiful girl.

But I have to explain it to her. I have to explain why George Zimmerman literally got away with murder, and why so many people seem to think that’s OK. I have to explain how Trayvon was armed with a sidewalk – a sidewalk! – which somehow made his young Black presence more of a threat than a white man with a gun. I have to explain, because she’s being raised by white parents, and as a child she was protected from much of the bitter truth of racism in this country. Because we knew to teach our little girl about the Civil Rights Movement and the heroes who fought racism so that she could live in a better world. But we couldn’t stand telling a five-year-old, a six-year-old, a seven-year-old what is obviously the case, that those heroes were only able to take us a few steps down the road, and we have so much further, so much further, to go.

But she’s a teenager now, tall and strong, who carries herself with a dancer’s confidence and grace. And now I’m going to have to explain to her that while she will need to stand her ground with boys who want more from her than she wants to give, and she will need to stand her ground against peers who want to offer her alcohol or drugs, and she should stand her ground against anyone who wants to convince her that their warped world-view is true, that she cannot afford to stand her ground if she is unjustly accused by the police, or anyone else in authority. And she cannot even afford to stand her ground against some self-appointed vigilante who decides to appoint himself in charge of where she is or is not allowed to walk. Because no amount of dignity or self-respect is worth getting killed at the hands of someone who knows you are dangerous because of your clothes and the color of your skin.

She cannot afford to stand her ground. And so I am going to have to. I, and all my other white, middle-aged friends and family who are entitled to walk down a street anywhere we like, we are going to have to stand her ground. We are going to have to tell the truth about racism, about guns, about where the danger in our society really lurks. And maybe, when I know that thousands and thousands of middle-aged white people are standing her ground, standing Trayvon’s ground, then having this conversation with her will not completely break my heart.

Selma Plus Fifty: Time For an Eight-Lane Bridge
Selma Plus Fifty: Time For an Eight-Lane Bridge
Greenery Without People: The Future of Post-Religious Community
Closing the Faith Gap – Restoring the Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • funny girl

    Please stop making this a race thing when it is a humanity and legal issue. I was jumped in my front yard by three individuals of another race because I told them to leave my dog alone when the threatened to kick it. (The dog was on my porch and no where near the individuals walking down the street.) The left mumbling something to themselves, they returned with a man. The two women and man beat me until a neighbor broke their car window to get them to leave. The police did not prosecute them despite the fact that we had a tag number and matched it with a line up of photos (so many photos) of the car owner. They did not prosecute because the individuals live in another town. Not because I am white and they are black, not because I had done something to provoke such a beating, not because of any other reason than the police chose not to pursue it. My husband owns a gun, he came out of the house with a gun because he heard the man scream he was going to shoot me, he came out with the .45 in his pocket. He never pulled his weapon, but can you imagine the headlines if he had?

    Please stop making this about race, we are all subject to cruelty and abuse every second of every day by every individual we come across. To pretend otherwise is ridiculous. Please make it about a failed legal system, one where an individual is acquitted simply because the only other witness is dead.

  • Chevyman

    I still find it odd that people make a claim that this case had anything to do with the “stand your ground” law. It didn’t, it was only portrayed that way initially by the media. Anyone involved in the legal system knows how likely the media is to get things correct, especially early on after an incident.

    The physical evidence supports the notion that Zimmerman was on his back getting beaten by Martin. Martin’s only injuries were bloody knuckles and the gunshot wound while Zimmerman had injuries to his face and the back of his head. Martin had wet knees while Zimmerman had a wet back. If Zimmerman was on his back being hit by Martin this case had nothing to do with stand your ground for either party. Stand your ground merely means you have no legal obligation to retreat before using force to defend yourself. A man being pinned down and beaten cannot retreat so even in a state with a stand your ground law Zimmerman would have had the same case for self defense.

    Also this notion that you can’t shoot someone for beating you is completely flawed. A person doesn’t have to wait until they are killed from a brain bleed before using lethal force to defend themselves. It is legal to use deadly force against an unarmed attacker if the manner in which the attack is made would lead a reasonable person to believe that failure to use such force would result in serious bodily injury or death. It is entirely possible to die or receive permanent debilitating injury from having your head slammed into the concrete.

    Why do so many people refuse to pay attention to the physical evidence of this case? Even if you don’t believe Zimmerman’s account of what happened all the physical evidence indicates that Martin was the aggressor and Zimmerman fired his weapon in self defense.

    People really need to educate themselves about the legal system before jumping to such conclusions. People jumping to conclusions is what led this incident to be so divisive and racially charged.

    • Secrecy Desired

      All the physical evidence does not at all support Martin was the
      aggressor, it simply shows that there was a struggle. No one is arguing
      that a struggle didn’t take place, but the nature of that struggle is
      in question. The head wounds were superficial, not life threatening.
      There was no DNA on the sidewalk. The body was several feet away from
      the concrete sidewalk when found. The original position the body was
      faced down on knees clutching chest. There was no Zimmerman DNA on
      Martin. And only small scratches on Martin’s left hand although he was
      right handed. The screaming stopped immediately after the shot and was
      heard just prior to the shot. (While pulling a gun to shoot someone is
      it likely that you would be yelling help at the same time?) Zimmerman
      was acquitted not because his version of the events was true, but
      because no one could prove what actually happened, or when. Reasonable
      doubt. So how can YOU be so sure what happened? Funny how you ignore
      evidence contrary to your own view.

  • nanomanoman

    And of course Mr Zimmerman is as “white” as Barack Obama, ie he is mixed race Hispanic. If he had been “fully” Hispanic would there have been the coverage? The outrage? Opponents of the law are perfectly justified in criticising it but this says more about white middle class guilt than the facts of the tragedy.

  • CenterStage

    Internet radio show Center Stage hit the internet airwaves recently to engage in a critical discussion about the controversial “Stand Your Ground” Law and its relevance to the Trayvon Martin case and the Florida v. Zimmerman verdict. With a panel of three criminal attorneys all from Florida and a sociology professor, the host was able to engage the audience in topics that ranged from reform or repeal, the application of the law, flaws in the law, the importance of jury selection, race and the law, and a deep discussion about the Zimmerman verdict. Insightful, informative, and an incredible discussion!!! If you missed it live, you have the chance to be there now.”

  • Pingback: Why I’m going to the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington | Speaking of...()