As much of the world knows by now, a young black teenager by the name of Trayvon Martin was killed last month by a volunteer Neighborhood Watch captain named George Zimmerman.
Martin was walking back to his father’s house with a bag of skittles and talking to a friend on his cell phone. As he was walking, he noticed Zimmerman looking at him from his car and promptly lifted the hood of his hoodie over his head in an attempt to go unnoticed.
Zimmerman saw Martin walking down the street, thinking he looked suspicious he called 911 and said that Martin was “just walking around looking about.” Zimmerman ignored a plea from the 911 dispatcher not to go after him and moments later Trayvon Martin lay dead with a single gunshot wound to the chest. To this day Zimmerman is a free man.
After a tragedy like this occurs there is always a predilection to lay blame. In this case there is enough liability to go around. The first and foremost is Zimmerman himself who decided to be judge, jury and executioner to an unarmed teenager.
George Zimmerman as a Neighborhood Watch captain had called 911 a total of forty-six times in the past year, an extremely high number for a gated community. Most of the calls were purportedly made to report suspicious activity of young black people.
Whether Zimmerman is racist at heart is still open to debate, but he definitely racially profiled his suspects. If Martin had been Caucasian, I believe he not only would still be alive, but might not have been bothered in the first place.
Aside from the man carrying the gun, we must also look at the law that allowed him to use it. Signed into law by Jeb Bush in 2005, Florida was the first state to pass the so-called “Stand your Ground” law. The law allows a civilian to respond with deadly force if he is in a place he has a right to be and feels reasonably threatened with serious harm.
The problem is “reasonably threatened” is not defined. Thanks to the way African Americans are portrayed in American society and media, it’s easy to see why people might acquire a disposition that blacks are dangerous, therefore anyone who watches “Cops” might feel reasonably threatened when seeing a black man walking down the street.
The Stand Your Ground law also allows ordinary people to use disproportionate force like the police have a tendency to do. If someone threw a punch at me, I can legally shoot them to death… In a country where anyone can have a gun, it’s no wonder why I won’t visit my mother in Florida.
Unfortunately, following Florida’s adaptation of this law, 23 other states have followed suit. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has been pursuing this law across the United States for years and with the help of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) their campaign has been quite successful.
ALEC is not a lobby or a front group; it is much more directly influential. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators the changes to laws they desire that directly benefits their profits, and they do so in secret. The organization is a who’s who of the extreme conservative right, out of 104 legislators in leadership positions only one is a Democrat.
PR Watch‘s Brendan Fischer summed it up best: “This bill was brought to ALEC by the National Rifle Association and fits into a pattern of ALEC bills that disproportionately impact communities of colour.”
George Zimmerman is ultimately responsible for pulling the trigger that resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin and hopefully he won’t go unpunished; however Martin was not the first victim of this ridiculous law and he will not be the last.
Once again it boils down to the corporatocracy we find ourselves living under where profit trumps public safety. Few people have heard of ALEC and the roles they play, if you are one of them, I implore you to learn more about them.
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Nice piece. Still livid.