The political football of the moment is the case of Trayvon Martin having been followed/stalked, shot and killed by George Zimmerman. So, let me punt.
The issues surrounding the case interest me. The case itself less so. But if not for the case, these surrounding issues would unlikely see the light of day in the MSM. This is a rare opportunity for public discussion when nearly the entire nation is paying attention, not that the issues suddenly are any more important than they are at any other time.
It’s hard to know how to talk about this subject. There are so many angles one can consider.
I’ll focus on the angle that has been my focus lately in general: race, ethnicity, culture, regionalism, clannishness, violence, culture of honor, North vs South, etc. Well, it is the focus that has been on my mind for these past few years.
What has come up in the internet chatter and the talking head babble is a constellation of factors with varying degrees of relevance or irrelvance to the case at hand (depending on one’s perspective and emphasis): neighborhood watch groups, self-defense pleas, stand your ground laws, castle doctrine, vigilante justice, gun ownership rights, concealed carry, gun violence rates, crime, legally-sanctioned vs non-legally-sanctioned violence/homicides, racial profiling, gated communities, and I’m sure many other things as well.
From what I understand, the police inform neighborhood watch groups to not carry guns. Police also tell them not to follow and confront people. George Zimmerman basically did everything he shouldn’t have been doing from a genuine self-defense perspective, although following random strangers around at night while carrying a concealed weapon isn’t illegal however inadvisable the behavior and however questionable the intentions/ethics. Well, killing defenseless and innocent minors is generally frowned upon in our society.
Zimmerman was some combination of overzealous and paranoid, whether or not one sees this as justified (by whether one shares such a overzealous, paranoid worldview). He might have genuine reasons for his fears (everyone has reasons for everything they do, morally worthy reasons or not), but that is true for people with fears that don’t lead them to shooting and killing people. Fear and homicide don’t inevitably go hand in hand. In this case, it was more than just fear. Zimmerman was frustrated and angry as well.
He had been upset because he didn’t think the police were doing their job, but he felt better when the police helped him out with the neighborhood watch group. His original criticism of the police was so strong because of the tension in the local community with crime. As he explained to the police dispatcher shortly before shooting Trayvon, “These assholes they always get away.” And there are multiple witnesses to there being racist sentiments in his family which is evidence for how we should interpret statements like this combined with his having a history of calling the police to report suspicious people who were mostly black. Anyway, he made sure Trayvon didn’t get away, even when all Trayvon was trying to do was get back home to his family.
Stalking and killing innocent people in your neighborhood is hardly an effective method of making your community safer. Just speaking for myself, I’d feel less safe knowing a gun-carrying homocidal paranoiac like Zimmerman was living in my neighborhood freely walking about with a concealed weapon ready to shoot anyone he meets based on his subjective feelings of fear… but that is just me.
This is an obvious case of vigilante justice. When put in those terms, most people immediately think of it as a moral judgment. I, however, simply am using it as a description. Almost anyone could envision a scenario where they would deem vigilante justice to be justifiable, morally even if not legally; assassinating Hitler as a straightforward example; a wife shooting her life-threatening abusive husband is another example that most people could accept or at least understand. Those who support Zimmerman see his seeking vigilante justice as perfectly reasonable and even admirable, although among his supporters not all are completely willing to get on full board with the overzealousness of his application of vigilante justice.
Many gun rights proponents often argue that there would be less crime if there were more people with guns. So, in this case, if both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman had guns, then they could have had a stand-your-ground shootout which would have been the ultimate form of justice; may the fastest draw win. From what I’ve recently read, it sounds like the stand your ground laws have many unintended consequences. They’ve been successfully used as a self-defense plea by gangsters involved in gang fights and by those who left the scene of a confrontation only to later return with a gun to kill the person.
I was also recently once again looking at violence rates and murder rates in the states which fits the typical North/South divide. I would point out that an act of violence that leads to death isn’t technically murder when it is legally sanctioned or doesn’t lead to criminal prosecution. I’m sure police violence isn’t even included in the stats on violence rates. Only if the police were brought to trial and prosecuted would that particular incident of police violence be included with all the rest of the violence. This is significant as particular places are known for having more violent police forces than other places.
Also, vigilante justice and violence in general is more condoned and more common in the South (whether the condoning makes it common or the commonness leads to it being condoned). As explained by Sheldon Hackney, “In the South, there’s just more folks who need killing.” I came across an example of this. Someone was explaining how, in Texas a half century ago, a standard argument for a defense lawyer wasn’t to claim that his client didn’t kill the person but that the murder victim was of low character and had it coming to them. This argument apparently was convincing to juries at the time and led to many innocent verdicts. Such a legal defense is based on a cultural expectation that vigilante justice should be upheld by the court of law.
One sees an echo of this older Southern legal tradition in how the Zimmerman case proceeded and concluded.
I see examples of this kind of thinking in my own family.
My mother quickly went to the defense of Zimmerman. Her family is of typical Appalachian stock.
My maternal uncle Bob owns and carries guns. The last time I saw him, he told of a situation where his gun came in handy. He lives out in the country and someone knocked on his door late at night asking for car help. He went out to help the guy, but made sure to bring along his gun concealed from view. He was met by a bunch of young guys who threatened to rob him and so he pulled out his gun. They left quickly. Even though he is a hardcore Christian, he openly admits that he wouldn’t think twice about killing someone who had it coming. The important point is that he is a hardcore Christian of the Southern fundamentalist variety.
Violence as a way of maintaining order was more normal for my mother’s family. Her father would beat her and her brother to punish them. My mother and uncles lived in fear of their father, but it did maintain order in an authoritarian paternalistic kind of way.
I don’t know what my father thinks of the Zimmerman case. His view might be similar to that of my mother, but his family is a more mixed background which is demonstrated by another incident.
My paternal grandmother was born and raised in the South and her family have been in the Deep South for centuries. She moved to the Midwest when she married my paternal grandfather who was a Northerner, born in New Jersey but raised on an estate on Long Island Sound in Connecticut. My father’s parents were arguing once when he was a child and my paternal grandmother ended up shooting a gun into a chair. My paternal grandfather could get angry and moody, but he never turned to violence. That is Southern meets Northern in a nutshell.
My father takes more after his own father and his father’s Northern attitude. My dad has considered buying a gun. My dad has some right-wing tendencies such as in fearing the breakdown in society. He realizes that if society were to breakdown there would be riots and looting. One might want to have a gun in this kind of situation, but then his Northern Christian sensibility kicks in. He realizes that he wouldn’t want to be responsible for killing his own neighbors merely to protect some food. It seems unChristian to him, but killing people is perfectly Christian to the Southern fundamentalist worldview.
Read or watch some of the End Times apocalyptic entertainment put out by fundies. I have and it is a scary world as seen through their eyes. If I saw the world that way, I’d carry a gun too.
My worldview leans toward pacifism which makes sense as I born in and lived most of my life in the Quaker-founded culture of the Midlands. It’s a live-and-let-live community-minded semi-libertarianism. Like the rural South, the rural Midwest has a majority white population that is religious, supportive of gun rights and do indeed own lots of guns. Unlike the rural South, the rural Midwest has low rates of gun violence in particular and violence in general. The rural South has the highest rate of violence in the entire country. It also has higher rates of suicides, ‘accidental’ deaths, wife beatings, child abuse, etc. The South is just a dangerous place all around, whether you wish to ascribe that to a culture of honor or to clannish genetics.
Here in Iowa, I have coworkers with guns, some for hunting and some for self-defense. I have one coworker who is in the National Guard and carries a gun with him. That doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’m a liberal-minded gun rights proponent, but like a good Midwesterner I also advocate for a peaceful, safe and orderly society. The high rate of violence in the South is a foreign mentality to me. I just don’t get it.
The problem isn’t necessarily the laws themselves for the laws merely are an expression of a culture. You could have a stand your ground law in Iowa and it probably wouldn’t lead to more violence as it seems to have in Southern states. So, maybe laws like this throw gas on the fire, but they didn’t start the fire.
What this recent case brings to public attention is how different the South is from the rest of the country. For a non-Southerner visiting the South, it is truly like visiting a foreign land. It isn’t dissimilar to visiting Mexico. In both cases, there is a higher chance you might get killed, even if you’re just walking down the street minding your own business.
Related to the North/South divide is the race issue.
Black culture is stigmatized as being inherently violent. This is the justification for racial profiling, as argued by those on the right. However, since white rural Southerners are the single most violent regional demographic in the US, why don’t they get profiled? If gangsta rap music is judged to promote violence, why don’t we judge redneck country music the same way? Country music is often about immoral behavior: extramarital affairs, drunkenness, fighting, etc. The older country music and mountain music can be extremely dark. So, why this racial double standard?
I was walking to my parents’ home the other night, not unlike what Trayvon Martin had been doing. It was getting a bit dark and I’m typically a bit scruffy looking. It’s an upper class neighborhood that has had some crime. The scenario was quite similar to what led to the Trayon killing, but the difference is that I’m white and I live in relatively peaceful Iowa. As a white person, I felt as safe as if I were sitting at home behind a locked door. I walked past kids and adults, none of whom knew me nor did I know them, yet no one looked at me suspiciously, followed me in a car or stalked me on foot.
Obviously, it isn’t just about the Florida case. It is about the Southern culture that promotes vigilante justice and makes unjust violence inevitable. Maybe even more importantly, it’s about this country’s unresolved race issues which go hand in hand with this country’s unresolved regional issues. Even if the law was properly applied in this particular case, we obviously need to fix our legal system to ensure that it is a justice system. An unjust law fairly applied doesn’t a just society make.
We as a society still have a lot of soul-searching to do, if there is ever to be justice in this country. A truly just society isn’t defined by those who have it coming getting punished with death but rather is defined by the innocent not living in fear of those who think they have it coming.
* * * *
In researching this case and the issues involved, here are the interesting things I found:
As it is, and in spite of his acquittal, George Zimmerman’s life has been changed for ever. He is in hiding, a marked man now a target for a hothead’s vigilante justice – what he was accused of meting out to Trayvon Martin.
“That we can get a verdict like this, not because the system has broken down, but the system worked exactly as it was designed,” Oliver said. “How does 2013 Florida have a law that seems cut and pasted from 1881 Tombstone? Because – let’s be clear here – according to current Florida law, you can get a gun, follow an unarmed minor, call the police, have them explicitly tell you to stop following him, then choose to ignore that, keep following the minor, get into a confrontation with him and if at any point during that process you get scared, you can shoot the minor to death and the state of Florida will say, ‘Well, look, you did what you could.’”
But thanks to these dumb-as-dog-shit laws, while the defense had to introduce some evidence that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense, they didn’t actually have to completely convince us of it. All they had to do, according to the undoubtedly moronic but explicitly written Florida statutes, was create a “reasonable doubt” as to whether he acted in self-defense.
Does that make sense to me? Absolutely not. But I was put in the position to decide whether the prosecution was able to present a case that proved that George Zimmerman was not acting in self-defense when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. And based on the guidelines, which all of us thought were pretty ludicrous and sort of made us question the entire U.S. justice system, the prosecution didn’t do it.
I know it’s easier for all of you who are enraged at us to look past the details. After all, putting yourselves in our position would force you to try to understand how brutally complex, and legitimately dysfunctional, the legal system truly is. And why do that when you can just call us unsympathetic monsters?
Look, I’m not an idiot. I know George Zimmerman shot an unarmed teenager to death—he admitted to it, for Christ’s sake. Zimmerman followed an innocent 17-year-old (we couldn’t take into consideration whether or not Martin was racially profiled, by the way, which was yet another little legal gem that was handed our way), called 911, was told by the operator not to pursue him, but instead began a physical altercation that ended in the young man’s death. And the state of Florida stipulated that, from a strict legal standpoint, George Zimmerman did nothing wrong.
Pretty fucking dumb, right? Trust me, we tried looking at this thing from every angle while we were in deliberation for 16 hours. There’s no way around it.
The “Zimmerman mindset,” as Alexander calls it, is composed of more parts than mere racism. Another part of it — equally dangerous, if not more so — is the paranoid, self-important vigilante mindset that drove Zimmerman to completely ignore the advice of authorities, forget the local cops even existed, and go off on his own tear and get himself into a lot of totally unnecessary trouble, just because everyone has told him, and he’s told himself, that a man has to “stand his ground” and “retreat” of any sort is bad, even when basic common sense demands it and there’s really nothing to gain by fighting.
This wan’t just a triumph of racism, it was a triumph of juvenile libertarianism over sensible use of state power, brittle macho belligerence over prudent choice of where to make a stand and when to step back for safety’s sake. It was a triumph of childish, selfish emotion over any sort of adult reason or responsibility.
Funny how you don’t hear the Second Amendment fetishists saying that this tragedy could have been averted if only Martin had been armed and able to defend himself!
By now, if you’re even slightly in tune with issues of guns and gun violence, you also have heard a lot about the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year old boy who was innocently walking through his gated neighborhood when a self-appointed neighborhood watch man, George Zimmerman, armed with a concealed weapon and feeling empowered by Florida’s “shoot first” law, took it upon himself to trail and then accost Trayvon, against the advice of 911. When the boy put up a fight, armed with nothing more than a can of tea and a bag of Skittles, Zimmerman shot Trayvon dead.
There are so many red flags with this case that it boggles the mind, such as the fact that Zimmerman had a violent past but was allowed to carry a concealed weapon anyway, the way Zimmerman ignored the 911 operator and felt obliged to get into an armed confrontation with the boy despite the fact that police were on their way, the assumption by the police of Zimmerman’s innocence, the assumption by the police of Trayvon’s guilt, the apparent stereotypes that Zimmerman had of Trayvon based on the boy’s clothing and skin color, and the lack of an arrest of the shooter.
But at least as disturbing to me as any of those things is the root of the issue, the one thing that led to the confrontation in the first place: the desire by a man with a concealed weapon to play “Wyatt Earp” and be a freelance policeman. People carry concealed handguns for two main reasons: fear of others, and a sense of self-empowerment. Fear of others can quickly become paranoia, and a feeling of self-empowerment can sometimes push people over the edge into irrational behavior in a crisis situation. Both of these things likely happened in Trayvon’s situation. Add to this the recent study that people who hold guns are more likely to imagine others being armed with guns. This, too, apparently happened in Trayvon’s shooting, where Zimmerman is heard on the 911 call saying that he thought Trayvon was holding something suspicious, like a gun.
There is an irrefutable fact: the average citizen with a conceal carry license is not even remotely trained like a policeman. They aren’t as versed in the laws, they haven’t been trained in crisis intervention, negotiation tactics, or how to remain rational or steady in a shootout, and they likely haven’t had as much practice with their weapon. Training requirements are little to none nearly anywhere in America for them, and they are less accountable to anyone for their potentially lethal decisions than law enforcement professionals. So the pro-gun daydream of saving the day with their guns is a potentially lethal one, not just for the criminal or the gun owner, but also for anyone who happens to be around them when the shootout happens.
I can understand the frustration felt by the citizens of Dorena. They just want to feel safe. Sadly, bond measures intended to fund law enforcement in this area almost always fail, and they are particularly voted against by rural voters like those in Dorena. If they want to improve their safety, arming everyone around and forming posses to come to the rescue of a victim isn’t the answer, as Trayvon’s family can now attest. The answer is better funding to improve the number of deputy patrols, as well as the many non-armed options to hardening their homes against invaders.
There are very good reasons why we have police forces instead of relying on vigilantes to protect our communities.
But thanks to Florida’s incredible sunshine laws, we know a few relevant things about Zimmerman.
In July 2005, he was arrested for “resisting officer with violence.” The neighborhood watch volunteer who wanted to be a cop got into a scuffle with cops who were questioning a friend for alleged underage drinking. The charges were reduced and then waived after he entered an alcohol education program. Then in August 2005, Zimmerman’s former fiance sought a restraining order against him because of domestic violence. Zimmerman sought a restraining order against her in return. Both were granted. Meanwhile, over the course of eight years, Zimmerman made at least 46 calls to the Sanford (Fla.) Police Department reporting suspicious activity involving black males.
We also know that Witness No. 9 accused Zimmerman of molesting her when they were children. The relative’s revelation is appalling but irrelevant. What most folks don’t know is that Witness No. 9 made an explosive allegation against her cousin. “I know George. And I know that he does not like black people,” she told a Sanford police officer during a telephone call in which she pleaded for anonymity. “He would start something. He’s a very confrontational person. It’s in his blood. Let’s just say that. I don’t want this poor kid and his family to just be overlooked.” At the end of the call, Witness No. 9 urged the officer to “get character reports from other people and see if he’s ever said anything about black people, about being racist or anything like that because I guarantee you there’s somebody out there who will say it.”
That phone call was significant because it was placed two days after Zimmerman killed Trayvon and a couple of weeks before the case drew national attention. Witness No. 9 wasn’t seeking attention. “I’m a mom,” she told police. “I can’t stand seeing that some kid got shot and killed over a stupid fight, especially one that my [redacted] … because I know who he is.”
George Zimmerman is the one who stands accused of second-degree murder. He, not Trayvon Martin, is the one on trial starting June 10. And who Zimmerman is more relevant to the proceedings than who Trayvon was.
A 2012 study by PBS’s Frontline is getting a second look post-Zimmerman’s exoneration, and it reveals that if you’re going to kill in self-defense in America, you’d better be white. By analyzing data from a study by John Roman, senior analyst at the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, Frontline found that in “Stand your ground” states, white people who kill black people are 354 percent more likely to be found justified in their killings. And it doesn’t get much better in non-“Stand your ground” states, where that number goes down only to 250 percent.
But even when it comes to black-on-black crime or black-on-white crime, a black defendant is unlikely to get a self-defense ruling in his or her favor, whether or not the state has “Stand your ground” laws on the books
Our results indicate that Stand Your Ground laws are associated with a significant increase in the number of homicides among whites, especially white males.According to our estimates, between 4.4 and 7.4 additional white males are killed each month as a result of these laws.We find no evidence to suggest that these laws increase homicides among blacks.
What’s more striking in these data than the pre-/post-comparison is the sharp contrast between SYG and non-SYG states. Could it be that the SYG states are more inclined to pass such laws because they’re inured to a relatively high level of violence already?
• Those who invoke “stand your ground” to avoid prosecution have been extremely successful. Nearly 70 percent have gone free.
• Defendants claiming “stand your ground” are more likely to prevail if the victim is black. Seventy-three percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white.
• The number of cases is increasing, largely because defense attorneys are using “stand your ground” in ways state legislators never envisioned. The defense has been invoked in dozens of cases with minor or no injuries. It has also been used by a self-described “vampire” in Pinellas County, a Miami man arrested with a single marijuana cigarette, a Fort Myers homeowner who shot a bear and a West Palm Beach jogger who beat a Jack Russell terrier.
• People often go free under “stand your ground” in cases that seem to make a mockery of what lawmakers intended. One man killed two unarmed people and walked out of jail. Another shot a man as he lay on the ground. Others went free after shooting their victims in the back. In nearly a third of the cases the Times analyzed, defendants initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim — and still went free.
• Similar cases can have opposite outcomes. Depending on who decided their cases, some drug dealers claiming self-defense have gone to prison while others have been set free. The same holds true for killers who left a fight, only to arm themselves and return. Shoot someone from your doorway? Fire on a fleeing burglar? Your case can swing on different interpretations of the law by prosecutors, judge or jury.
• A comprehensive analysis of “stand your ground” decisions is all but impossible. When police and prosecutors decide not to press charges, they don’t always keep records showing how they reached their decisions. And no one keeps track of how many “stand your ground” motions have been filed or their outcomes.
Comments Section – InsiderMyself wrote:
AH BUT THIS JUROR DOES ADMIT STAND YOUR GROUND WAS FACTOR:
“Because of the heat of the moment and stand your ground, he had a right to defend himself.”
Look what happened. Even the Times is now writing “stories” about how this law was not used here. “It’s not about stand your ground”. Bullhockey! The judges instructions to the jury are based on the LAW. And a juror said it did matter.
So why is the Times saying otherwise?
Former Sen. Durell Peaden and Rep. Dennis Baxley, two of the authors of Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, are arguing that George Zimmerman lost the right to claim protection by way of self-defense the moment he went after Trayvon Martin, and insist that the legislation itself isn’t to blame for Martin’s death.
He has no protection under my law, Peaden told the Miami Herald.
Clarification: The PBS/Frontline study referenced above was conducted over a year ago; at the time, lawyers for George Zimmerman were relying on SYG for their defense, hence, John Roman’s quote above. By the time of the trial, the defense strategy had been changed to the standard “self-defense.” However… as stated in the article linked below on the issue of race and SYG:
George Zimmerman killed a 17-year-old boy he’d stalked for being ‘suspicious’ (a black teenager in a neighborhood where there’d been some problems… also known as “racial profiling”), provoked an altercation, shot the boy to death and then got off scott-free based on the parameters of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Yes, Zimmerman’s lawyer dropped that particular defense and went with plain old “self defense” instead (getting out of your car and following someone is, by definition, not “standing” your ground) but the very existence of the law pollutes the way people view murder “unavoidable” shootings. Particularly when a black person is the victim.
The Times searched major Florida newspapers and found at least 93 cases in the past five years in which the new law was a factor. Those are just the confrontations that made the papers.
In 57 of them, those who used force were either not charged with a crime or the charges were dropped by prosecutors or dismissed by a judge before trial. Seven other defendants were acquitted.
Some people fought off intruders in their homes or businesses, which would have been allowed even before the “stand your ground” law.
The use of force resulted in 65 deaths.
Did the law empower the users of force to shoot? Could the tables have been turned on the shooters? If not for the law, would any of those 65 people still be alive?
How can anyone know?
What is known: Reports of justifiable homicides in Florida have spiked.
For the first half of this decade, the state counted an average of 34 justifiable homicides a year, as few as 31 and as many as 43.
That continued in 2006, the law’s first full year.
But the next three years brought these numbers:
The first six months of 2010: 44.
They still wonder. What was wrong with Rodney that evening? Why was he acting out of character? The autopsy showed that his skull was fractured. Had he been beaten? Did he run into the trailer in fear for his life?
“It came close to killing my parents,” said Cox’s sister, Terri Cox Lavery, 44, who still combs through the police reports seven years later, looking for answers. “My mom, just this year, has gotten some of herself back.”
Her family, many of them former military, owns guns. Her husband has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. They believe in the right to bear arms and to protect your property.
“But if someone seems disoriented,” she said, “I’d like to think that we would, at a distance, first attempt to give some kind of aid and set some boundaries and call for help.”
They all agree that it’s especially insulting and hurtful that Rodney’s death is used by politicians as an example.
“The people who used this incident to pass that law, they’re not even on course,” said Autry, Cox’s uncle. “They’re not even close.”
Yet his lawyer could argue, invoking Stand Your Ground, that his client, outside the home, in the dark, waiting in ambush, “had the absolute right to defend himself inside his own home.” Before 2005, such an inside-out defense would have been dismissed as absurd. No longer.
Of course, this was just some a petty criminal, shot and killed in the act. An ex-con on probation working his way to his next conviction. Not a very sympathetic victim. But there was a time when one measure of a civil society had to do with the value it assigned to the life of even a common thief. When civil society restricted the use of deadly force to extreme, fearful, unavoidable circumstances.
However, where the results get really interesting is when we look at the male population of gun owners. Here’s the results that should interest you about the rate of gun ownership among me. The two highest rated sub-populations regarding gun ownership are:
Married southern men : 64%
Non-Hispanic southern white men: 61%
Non-southern married men: 48%
Non-Hispanic, non-southern white men: 45%
Further more, no other region of the country comes close to the South in terms of guns ownerhip. Here are the rates of gun ownership, which combine both male and female gun owners, among the various regions of the country:
Southern residents: 38%
Midwestern residents: 29%
Western residents: 27%
Eastern residents: 21%
That’s a big difference. It may reflect a cultural difference among the various regions, or it might reflect that many states outside the South have stricter gun laws. There’s no way to know, unfortunately, just based on Gallup’s raw data. However, Gallup’s data does show that women, married or not are more likely to own guns if they reside in the South versus other regions of the country.
I’ve driven through Sanford a number of times, when I was living in Jacksonville, FL. Don’t know much about it, specifically. I had a friend who lived in the town just to the north, Deltona. This part of Florida is called North Florida, and snarky comments from the rest of the South aside, it is very much part of the old South.
I have gone to the beach on the Fourth of July and seen Confederate battle flags. I have seen them on people’s trucks in Orlando, the urban center which is near Sanford. Driving North on 75 towards the Georgia border is the largest flag I’ve ever seen, fluttering over the freeway. Another Confederate flag (the first time I saw it, it froze my blood and my wife asked me where I’d taken her–she’s Black).
This is a part of Florida where, about a decade ago, a farmer was convicted of driving in to Jacksonville and offering jobs to homeless men, then keeping them imprisoned on his farm, charging them more for room and board than he paid them, and not letting them leave until their debts were paid.
In Florida, we have a “stand your ground” law. That is, you are not required to attempt to escape before you use deadly force against another. The Sanford police are attempting to say it applies, though Zimmerman is the pursuer, not the pursuee. He was the one with the gun. And I have little doubt that if it had been me walking through that neighborhood, not only would I still be alive, Zimmerman wouldn’t have bothered with me nor called the police.
But the murder of Black men by white authorities is not a crime in Florida. Not even in South Florida, the supposedly liberal part. Not even when, like ‘BG’ Beaugris, they are executed while lying on the ground.
Dumb kids are gonna be dumb kids no matter where or when, but does being a dumbass warrant a death sentence by private individuals, “just because?” Zimmerman, Martin’s murderer, hasn’t exactly won much public support. But “the homeowner” who gunned down Morrisson in the middle of the night for being on his porch? Holy Moly has there been an outpouring of support for him. A simple smell test can tell you a lot about what these murders were about. Imagine it was a white kid gunned down on a black homeowner’s porch. Perhaps some of the emminantly reasonable objections to this scenario would go like this: “Did the homeowner really have to kill this kid?” “This is not what the castle doctrine was intended for?” “Couldn’t the homeowner have retreated inside his house behind a locked door and called the cops?” Unfortunately, this is not what happened.
A study released in 2006 by Duke University on attitudes on race in Durham, N.C., a city with one of the fastest-growing Latino populations in the country, found that an overwhelming majority of Latinos — 78 percent — felt they had the most in common with whites, while 53 percent of them felt they had the least in common with blacks. So it would make sense for those respondents to act with the same assumptions about blacks that they perceive are held by native whites. In fact the Latino respondents, many of them immigrants from Mexico and Central America, actually reported higher negative feelings toward blacks than most native-born whites. Nearly 60 percent reported feeling that few or almost no blacks were hard-working or could be trusted, while only 10 percent of whites held that view.
On the other hand, almost three-quarters of blacks felt that Latinos were hard-working or could be trusted. Black Americans appear to view Latinos as more like themselves. “Blacks are not as negative toward Latinos as Latinos are toward blacks because blacks see them as another nonwhite group that will be treated as they have been,” said Paula D. McClain, the lead author on the study. Even as blacks worry about losing jobs to new immigrants, they are less supportive of harsh anti-immigration laws, she said, “because they know what laws have done to them.”
[ . . . ]
In this atmosphere, blacks are the target of the highest number of hate crimes in the United States, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation — higher by a wide margin than any another group of Americans by race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability. While blacks make up 12.6 percent of the country’s population, they were 70 percent of the victims of racial hate crimes in 2010.
WHATEVER role caste may have played in the Trayvon Martin case is unknowable, and it is far too early to tell whether Mr. Zimmerman will be arrested, tried or convicted. But that encounter unfolded in Seminole County, where Latinos have overtaken African-Americans as the dominant minority group, rising to 17 percent from 11 percent in the last decade. Blacks now make up 11 percent and whites, 66 percent. The area had a history of vigilante justice long before the new arrivals, dating back to 1920, when blacks in the nearby town of Ocoee were burned out of their homes after two black men tried to vote.
The murder and the verdict proved that Black males were born suspicious. Black masculinity is what some fear the most. Fear is why we have to go way out our way to be as approachable and as safe as possible. A flawed society and system are reasons why I have to appear safe. Black masculinity is why there are systems in place to bring us down, which is why Trayvon was doomed before he was born.
There always has to be some reason why a Black male dies at a young age. If a Black male dies, you often see gangs or drugs as the main factors to their demise as if he provoked his own death. The same has been said against Trayvon. By his appearance alone, he was destined to die? He only defended himself against a man stalking him, but since Trayvon chose to fight, he somehow chose his fate.
If you take a look at his supposed drug use, remember that the last three of our U.S. Presidents smoked weed AND cocaine. President George W. Bush was arrested for a DUI. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger smoked weed. Using drugs is not a factor; it’s a Black male using drugs that’s the problem. Even with Trayvon’s not so squeaky clean record in school, it was impossible for Zimmerman to be aware of that on that day. What Zimmerman perceived is what many perceived: a walking monster.
The fact is that teenagers often do dumb things. We’ve all done it; however, those dumb things should not be cause for murder. Teenagers do dumb things, and then they grow up, and start to do less dumb things.
Trayvon did what you’re taught to do and that was self-defense. The case also proves that Black males cannot engage in self-defense because it will always be their fault.
A Black death is always arguable. Thus is why there are so many reasons as to why he and many like him should’ve died. It is why I know that if I were killed in the same manner some would believe that it was my destiny because of the body I’m in and where I come from. When Emmitt Till’s killers were acquitted, one of the jurors said “If we hadn’t stopped to drink pop, it wouldn’t have taken that long.” There isn’t much difference with Emmitt and Trayvon. No matter how Black males strive to be a productive member in society, that same society will strive to condemn you, so what can we possibly do to not seem like a threat?
The classic study of the subject is by Richard Nisbett, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan. In his paper “Violence and Regional Culture,” published in the American Psychologist in 1993, Nisbett examined the higher rate of violence in the U.S. south, which he notes has been established since the time of revolution. After considering possible explanations having to do with poverty, slavery, and even the region’s hotter climate, he found a different answer in a cultural vestige of pastoralism: a deep “culture of honor” in which residents place an extraordinary value on personal reputation, family, and property. Threats to these things provoke aggressive reactions, leading to higher rates of murder and domestic violence. Here is how Nisbett himself explains it:
Southerners do not endorse violence in the abstract more than do Northerners, nor do they endorse violence in all specific forms of circumstances. Rather, they are more likely to endorse violence as an appropriate response to insults, as a means of self protection, and as a socialization tool in training children. This is the characteristic cultural pattern of herding societies the world over. Consistent with the culture-of-honor interpretation, it is argument-related and not felony-related homicide that is more common in the South…
There is another sense in which the culture of honor might turn out to be self-sustaining or even capable of expanding into mainstream culture. The culture is a variant of warrior culture the world over, and its independent invention countless times (Gilmore, 1990), combined with the regularities in its themes having to do with glorification of masculine attributes, suggests that it may be a particularly alluring stance that may be capable of becoming functionally autonomous. Many observers (e.g., Naipaul, 1989; Shattuck, 1989) have noted that contemporary Southern backcountry culture, including music, dress, and social stance, is spreading beyond its original geographical confines and becoming a part of the fabric of rural, and even urban, working-class America.
Perhaps for the young males who adopt it, this culture provides a romantic veneer to everyday existence. If so, it is distinctly possible that the violence characteristic of this culture is also spreading beyond its confines. An understanding of the culture and its darker side would thus remain important for the foreseeable future.