Stand Your Ground

BY: TRACY WASH II

Cartoon courtesy of Andy Marlette/amarlette@pnj.com
Cartoon courtesy of Andy Marlette/amarlette@pnj.com

America has a long history of promoting racial imbalance into law, from earlier race-based policies of slavery and segregation to more contemporary policies such as stop-and-frisk and the war on drugs.

The passing of the Stand Your Ground law has further perpetuated the racial imbalance in America. Stand Your Ground is an adjustment of self-defense laws which many southern states have adopted that has many Americans wondering, is this a race-neutral law?

SYG is a modification of Castle Doctrine that was an English Common Law adopted in America. This doctrine removed citizens from the "duty to retreat" when attacked in their home. Every state has instituted this doctrine into legislation.

Legislators made Stand Your Ground broaden the Castle doctrine in three ways. Legislators removed the "duty to retreat" from outside the home. Stand Your Ground also presumes that the surviving party has a "reasonable belief" or that the survivor killed legally in self-defense. Lastly, Stand Your Ground gives the survivor amnesty from civil lawsuits, criminal lawsuits and arrest.

By 2005, The National Rifle Association and many Florida Republicans created a law that would change the way Americans could defend themselves. The current governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, signed the bill into law which led to the NRA bringing forth similar laws all over the country.

After the passing of the bill, justifiable homicides grew exponentially in states that supported Stand Your Ground laws. The number of justifiable killings of people and minorities are growing because of the passage of this bill.

USA Today states that White on Black killings account for three percent of all homicides, but account for 16 percent of justifiable homicides. Killings that are Black on White account for seven percent of all homicides but account for only three percent of justifiable killings.

Since 2005, Stand Your Ground states White on Black killings have been justified 17 percent of the time. Killing that are Black on White are justified one percent of the time according to statistics collected by the Washington Post. In non Stand Your Ground states White on Black killings were deemed justified ten percent of the time.

The case that brought to light the racial inequality that still exist in America was the Trayvon Martin case. George Zimmerman, a White and Hispanic man that killed Martin used the Stand Your Ground law to justify the killing of the Black 16-year-old boy.

The jury found him not guilty and the judged released him from prison. This was a major disappointment to the Black community. This case shows that race still plays a factor in America's justice system. However, this wasn't the only case.

Marissa Alexander, a Black mother of three children used Stand Your Ground as her defense. Alexander, was being physically abused by her husband and to protect herself fired warning shots at her husband. She was arrested and convicted in several minutes to 20 years in prison. A black woman uses a law to protect herself and her child and gets 20 years. A White man follows a young black boy for prejudice reasons and kills him and is let free.

These cases show that justice is not truly blind in America. A prominent reverend Markel Hutchins spoke on race-based policies and gave some insight on how to improve race-relation in America. "Fear, is oftentimes, based on ones own bias, so when you have public policy that, literally lends itself to people being able to commit crimes or shootings under the color of law, because they're reasonably afraid, it makes a bad public policy and puts the constitutional rights of so many people around the country in jeopardy,” Hutchins stated.

If we can strive to create policies that can benefit everyone in America we'll finally see true justice handed out in our country.