Stand Your Ground: This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Policies

14 Jul

The Huffington Post, at around 10:00 PM last night, posted a Breaking News headline that George Zimmerman, who recently killed a black teenager, Trayvon Martin, claiming self-defense, was declared not guilty, despite pretty solid (IMO) evidence in favor of Martin. I will say that the prosecution dropped the ball, but that’s another story.

Now, “stand your ground” and similar policies are all in all a pretty good concept. Wikipedia (I know, I know) says:

“In the United States of America, stand-your-ground law states that a person may justifiably use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat, without an obligation to retreat first”

I’ll always be for self-defense and freedom of the individual. I carry a knife on me at all times, and I’d sooner take matters into my own hands than trust the law with any altercation I might find myself in. As a white woman, chances are, I’d be free to go if I proved that someone who screwed around with me deserved it. You don’t need me to vomit out things you’ve already heard about how “postracial” America is bullshit, how the law system and the media is overwhelmingly in favor of white (or white-appearing) individuals. But the fact that there is anyone in this country who is denied civil liberties under the guise of a policy that appears to enforce civil liberties really should make you angry.

What should make you angrier is that there’s no set definition of “justifiable force.” Zimmerman definitely had injuries that appeared to be inflicted by Martin, but there’s no evidence that Martin didn’t use this same “justifiable force” while being provoked by Zimmerman, and now he obviously can’t tell his side of the story. I’m no law expert but it doesn’t take a genius to see the glaring inconsistencies in how this policy is handled. CeCe McDonald was certainly standing her ground when she defended herself from the men who were attacking her. So why is she in prison while Zimmerman gets off scot-free? Marissa Alexander was charged for “aggravated assault” when she fired a warning shot upon being threatened by her abusive husband, and is now doing 20 years in prison. Although doing so may have put her children in danger, where’s her right to self defense? Is it reasonable to assume that her husband could’ve done more damage? Now these are just cases highlighted by the media, and I’m sure you could write a whole book about how race and gender play a role, but if these are just a few examples, it raises more than a few questions about the extent to which Americans are able to defend themselves, and how well American courts can protect the right to self-defense. The government is trying to disarm citizens, while cops literally get away with murder all the time. Claiming self-defense in court in any case is not as viable an option as it should be.

If you bothered to watch the Motherboard documentary I posted yesterday, you’ll remember NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre stating, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” As problematic as the NRA can be, I’m with him on that. At the end of the day, a 17 year old kid was killed in the US and no one was held responsible. To all the people who love to point out that kids get killed overseas and in America’s inner cities every day, ask yourself, does that really make this outcome justifiable?

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4 Responses to “Stand Your Ground: This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Policies”

  1. MichelleM July 14, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Great piece. You’re absolutely right about the state of self defense and the double standards inherent to the system, but I don’t think making an example of George Zimmerman would have been right. True justice for Trayvon (what I hope to see) is a serious dissection of so many points that you outlined in your piece, including the war on drugs.

    • Juliana July 14, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

      Right, but as prevalent as the drug war is, I don’t think it should be convoluted with this case. But yeah whenever the media zeroes in on something like this, I immediately have to give em the skeptical squinty face.

      • MichelleM July 14, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

        The war on drugs became a part of this case when Trayvon’s drug use was put on trial and when Trayvon’s blackness was put on trial.oh wait, the media helped facilitate those two things. sigh. Agreed though, this brand of self defense needs to be examined closely.

      • Juliana July 14, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

        This much is true. I read so much shit that not all of it sticks :p

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