Friday, July 26, 2013

Standing on what ground?

Last year I wrote a bit about the killing of Trayvon Martin, and I am saddened by the verdict in the case against George Zimmerman.  In last year's thoughts, I said in so many words that I didn't much care about the racial angle of the case.  I wanted to expand briefly on that by saying that, while I agree with many commentators that Martin's death and Zimmerman's acquittal are surely symptoms of systemic racism, I don't think it is very productive to focus on that fact.  People like Jesse Jackson and many less public figures have been calling attention to systemic racism in the US for a long time.  Those of us who are aware of it don't need further awareness-raising, and those who aren't aware of it by now seem entrenched in their determination not to see the systemic racism around them.  Furthermore, you can't really act or legislate to counter systemic racism as a whole. 

What you can do is to attack and chip away at the concrete manifestations or structures of it.  In this case, it seems to me that the so-called "Stand your ground" laws are madness that in this case has been put at the service of systemic racism.  How can any self-respecting legislator or magistrate believe in the right of a killer and his subjective feelings of "being threatened" to serve as the main or only material witness in his own case?  It doesn't make sense.  At any rate, my thoughts on the issue are expressed much more eloquently by this editorial writer from the NYT.

I don't know enough about law to think of how something like Stand Your Ground can be challenged or done away with.  The part of me that simplifies issues thinks that perhaps someone could walk up to Zimmerman on a lonely street and execute him, and then claim the same defense that Zimmerman employed.  Hell, you'd have a pretty solid reason to feel threatened by some vigilante thug who already has a very publicized precedent of killing a minor.  Maybe this would create another huge media circus of a trial that would put in stark evidence the stupidity of the Stand your Ground laws, and eventually get them changed.  Obviously as a civilized, moral person I can't really advocate killing Zimmerman, but part of me wishes that either I or someone else had a bit of the wild-eyed righteousness of John Brown and would feel justified in doing so.

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