Lynching By Any Other Name
Whites who kill blacks in Stand Your Ground states are far more likely to be found justified in their killings. In non-Stand Your Ground states, whites are 250 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than a white person who kills another white person; in Stand Your Ground states, that number jumps to 354 percent.
Today, I am grieved that yet another attack on the basic humanity of African-Americans has been visited upon my friends and fellow citizens. The Supreme Court decision to strike down a section of the Voting Rights Act a few weeks ago has been followed by a Florida criminal court verdict that George Zimmerman was not guilty of even manslaughter (let alone second-degree murder) when he gunned down Trayvon Martin on a sidewalk.
At the root of this verdict is a new category of laws called “stand your ground’ which have been enacted in several states, often with the backing of ALEC, a right-wing organization dedicated to rewriting legislation across the nation that weakens civil rights for all citizens, not just Blacks. We now know enough about the SYG laws to condemn their result as giving rise to a new wave of lynchings in the name of protecting white privilege. A state with SYG laws in place will have over 100% more not guilty verdicts for white murders of black men than other states without comparable laws. That, my friends, is nothing less than lynching by another name. And, it smells fouler than death itself.
I walked through my racially mixed suburban neighborhood on the border of Chicago last night after the verdict was all over the news. There were groups of blacks on several street corners talking heatedly about the verdict. I walked several blocks and eventually crossed into Chicago to an all-night drugstore to buy a fan for my overheated apartment. At no point did anyone ask where I was going. I passed two police cars with white cops (I saw no black cops this night) and they never stopped me to ask what I was doing out so close to midnight. As I walked home with my fan, no one attempted to rob me. I never felt in danger. Sirens rang out twice as I walked, and my heart sank as I figured that the police were doubtless pursuing young black men, likely without justifiable cause.
Many whites and even some few Blacks who embrace our legal system justified the Zimmerman verdict. I personally have little faith in the objectivity of mostly white juries. Can anyone seriously believe that Zimmerman had any reason to pursue Trayvon? There was zero evidence of a crime by him, though the mere act of leaving his vehicle is evidence enough for me that Zimmerman is a dangerous racist vigilante. I don’t need to know if Trayvon used a chunk of concrete to fight back, that would have been justifiable self-defense against a loaded gun. But, no, Trayvon was black and therefore had no civil rights. This verdict sends a deadly warning to all young black men, “stay off white folks’ sidewalks.” The dream is deferred, justice is denied.