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Initially, “stand your ground” laws seems logical – we have the right to defend ourselves if we feel threatened. Upon closer examination, it seems to actually protect institutionalized racism in American society.
What’s frightening is that almost anything can be interpreted as a reasonable threat – even something as harmless as someone playing loud music or sporting a hooded sweatshirt. In 2012, both of these actions resulted in the deaths of African-American teenagers and older, light-skinned men in court for murder.
Since Florida enacted it in 2005, stand your ground has justified what many citizens would call unjust, racist crimes, including the murders of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Both of these 17-year-old African-Americans were shot and killed while unarmed.
George Zimmerman, a light-skinned Latino, stated that Martin attacked and injured him. Zimmerman allegedly acted in self-defense and shot Martin, fatally wounding him. In court, he was acquitted of the murder and was left unpunished for Martin’s death.
However, there remain several disturbing questions. Why would Martin approach Zimmerman, unprovoked, and try to kill him for no apparent reason? Why did Zimmerman exit his vehicle even after the police ordered him not to, leading him to partake in the deadly confrontation with Martin? Couldn’t the wounds Zimmerman suffered have been sustained during Martin’s attempt at self-defense?
Similarly, the case of Michael Dunn and Davis leave Americans appalled by the seeming injustice of the justice system. According to witnesses, Dunn, a middle-aged white man from Florida, and Davis, a young black male, had a heated confrontation at a gas station. According to witnesses, Dunn approached Davis and complained about his loud music. In response, Davis cursed at him, leaving Dunn feeling angry and apparently threatened. As Davis and his three African-American friends drove away, Dunn shot at the van 10 times, with three of the shots hitting Davis and killing him.
In court last month, Dunn was convicted of three counts of attempted murder, but regarding Davis’ death, there is still no conclusion. One must ask: how is that not an open-and-shut murder case? Dunn aimed, shot and killed a young man, and it isn’t murder?