Stand Your Ground: A white privilege hunting license


In Florida, we see what the “stand your ground” law has become – a hunting license for the folks you don’t like. George Zimmerman deliberately pursued Trayvon Martin because he assumed the hoodie-clad teenager was a criminal. George Zimmerman deliberately pursued Trayvon Martin after being told to stay away by the police. George Zimmerman deliberately pursued Trayvon Martin, a teenager who was holding a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona watermelon drink, while talking on the phone. George Zimmerman instigated the fight that led to Martin’s death. This was not “standing ones ground”, this was downright pursuit. Yet somehow the jury found that Zimmerman was justified in shooting Martin because he feared great bodily harm or death. The punchline is that as long as one gets scared, “stand your ground” means it is a legal free pass to go hunt people down and kill them. “Stand your ground” now means that instead of avoiding conflict, a white male person can go hunting.

I say white and male with intention because a black female was not allowed by the judge to invoke the “stand your ground” law.

Marissa Alexander had never been arrested before she fired a bullet at a wall one day in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. Nobody got hurt, but this month a northeast Florida judge was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prison.

And by the numbers and graphs, the story is even worse.

Frontline reports the finding of John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, using FBI data on 5,000 homicides from 2005 to 2009,where there was a single shooter and a single victim, both of whom were strangers to each other. Roman identified “justified” homicides where the shooter goes free. I have added my own comments over the original graph.

The chart shows that stand-your-ground laws give an additional white privilege advantage to having no consequences for killing.

Also there are many justice steps that are not captured by the data like the police were not even going to investigate the George Zimmerman case until forced by public pressure.

The OJ SImpson case taught us that wealth may be even more of a factor.

A Tampa Bay Times analysis finds the same results :

A Tampa Bay Times analysis of nearly 200 cases — the first to examine the role of race in “stand your ground” — found that people who killed a black person walked free 73 percent of the time, while those who killed a white person went free 59 percent of the time.

Even more important is the cases where killing and contact was easily avoided and yet there was killing.

In other cases, the type that critics of “stand your ground” consider questionable, people killed and went free when they might have avoided a conflict:

  • Damian Niemeyer was standing at the bedroom window of his Royal Palm Beach townhouse in December when he saw three men trying to back his motorcycle onto a truck. He called 911, then yelled at the men. When one pointed a gun at the window, Niemeyer, who is white, fatally shot Benjy Young, a black teenager.
  • Hygens Labidou, who is black, was driving in Deerfield Beach in 2007 when two white men jumped out of their pickup, pounded on his truck and yelled racial slurs. Labidou, still inside his car, fired his gun, striking both men and killing 28-year-old Edward Borowsky.
  • In Pompano Beach in 2010, Patrick Lavoie, a white man, jumped out of his girlfriend’s car and accused Cleveland Murdock, a black man, of tailgating. When Lavoie, who had a cigarette lighter in his hand, tried to reach through Murdock’s passenger window, Murdock fatally shot him.

George Zimmerman was clearing looking for trouble – hunting. He killed and he got away with it. It is clear that in practice, stand-your-ground is hunting license that increases the chances of a white male getting away with justified homicide.

For full disclosure, I have been one of the gun carry advocates and I still am. It is long documented in my blogging.

Related stories:

Talking about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman (Mary Turck, 2013)

BEHIND THE STORY | Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman: When will the cycle of racism stop? (Sheila Regan, 2013)

COMMUNITY VOICES | In the aftermath of Zimmerman’s acquittal, racial justice remains elusive (Nekima Levy-Pounds)

OPINION | Sidestepping race in Zimmerman’s trial only puts a bandaid on America’s racial wound (Lolla Mohammed Nur, 2013)