OPINION | Trayvon Martin murder exposes madness of Stand Your Ground laws


On February 26, 2012, unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot to death by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old wannabe cop and self-appointed gun-carrying neighborhood watchman in a gated community just outside Orlando in Sanford, Florida. (No local or gated community rule authorized such an armed role.)

Trayvon was returning from a convenience store three blocks from the home of his dad’s fiancée to get snacks for watching a basketball game. He was essentially shot for SWB (shopping while Black).

The 911 tapes (which police withheld until forced to release them by court order) make it easier to understand this latest American tragedy, as it reveals the use of racial hate language. The shooter was told by 911 to stand down and stop trailing the young man.

Witnesses say Zimmerman struck Trayvon from behind, then shot him through the heart as he lay on the ground. Other “arrest” factors include the chilling one that Zimmerman was not only allowed to go free but also to keep his weapon.

It is these kinds of actions of Zimmerman, the Sanford Police Department, and the state of Florida that brings shivers and fear into the African American community in Florida and other “Stand Your Ground” states.

Fifteen states have Stand Your Ground gun laws that essentially expand on the “right” of citizens to claim self-defense in killing other citizens. Florida passed its law in 2005. There are thousands of gun laws, but police are lax in enforcement.

And there remains a bias in favor of White gun owners. Zimmerman had been arrested four years ago in an armed assault on a police officer. He is not legally allowed to be issued a permit to carry a gun, and yet he was.

Was this an Emmett Till moment?

Too often, Black America suffers shootings in silence. Trayvon Martin’s family played the game the way White folks do, tenaciously taking the steps necessary, beginning with filing in court and getting release of the 911 tapes.

Homicides (purposeful murders) require bureaucratic report writing and investigating. It is so much easier for police departments to label them “accidental” and be done with them. It works because African Americans too often remain silent.

You see, the Sanford Police Department refused to launch an investigation; they merely took the word of the assailant that young Mr. Martin represented a threat to Mr. Zimmerman by virtue of his race and appearance. The Martin family is showing the way for future victims of such “accidents” to get justice.

Florida Representative Corrine Brown was able to bring the Black Congressional Caucus and national figures such as the Rev. Al Sharpton to pressure Florida authorities and the Obama administration to explain why Mr. Zimmerman was let go instead of being charged.

It is no wonder that Florida’s passage of Stand Your Ground legislation, combined with lax support of gun laws, caused many Blacks in the state of Florida to argue that this represents a dangerous and immediate threat to African Americans. It could be used as an instrument by White supremacists, vigilantes, and those who simply hate African Americans and others to hide behind the law as a legal shield to threaten and to terminate the lives of African Americans.

Too many of the 2012 presidential candidates of the right, and their supporters, seem drawn to talk darkly about marginalizing and dismissing the rights of African Americans and other non-Whites. Despite “it can’t happen here” claims, it clearly does.

And now, belatedly, cases are being examined in other American states with Stand Your Ground legislation. Did you know that our sister state of Wisconsin passed such a law and that one is working its way through the Minnesota legislature?

Not surprisingly, there have been questionable circumstances where African Americans have lost their lives in, for example, Milwaukee and Beloit, Wisconsin, Texas, Louisiana, and Western states like Idaho, Utah and Arizona. An examination is underway to ascertain how these killings — nay, executions, murders — were handled of African Americans sacrificed on the altar of Stand Your Ground legislation. It’s American character soul-searching time.

Only a veto from Governor Mark Dayton will stop it from becoming law in Minnesota.

Too many within White America still harbor “master class” delusions that African Americans have no rights and feel free to curb them.

Will Minnesota also adopt Stand Your Ground legislation, adding another clear and present “open season” danger to African Americans in the United States of America?

Please stay tuned.

Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, and hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “Black Focus V” on Sundays, 3-3:30 pm and Thursdays, 7-8:30 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his solution papers for community planning and development, “web log,” and archives at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.