STAND YOUR COLD, DEAD GROUND LAW

Posted: June 10, 2014 in Shorts

I wrote the piece below two days before the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the slaying of Trayvon Martin. Why I had to pick this instance to be prescient, I do not know, but I wish I had been wrong. Still, the thrust of the article becomes all the more pointed in lieu of the not guilty verdict. As Melissa Harris-Perry points out, the justice problem here lies not with the six (?!?) jurors, but with the law itself. Since the days of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, we have witnessed an erosion of the power or will of the federal judiciary to negate the worst proclivities of state systems. All the local vigilantes obsessed with emphasizing the so-called “rights of the victim” were strangely quiet in this trial. The reason why is declared in the words that follow–with tears. 

Is it possible that we don’t know that race is the issue?
It was the issue that allowed for the resolution of cognitive dissonance during the genocide of the American Indian.
It was the issue that facilitated the enslavement of four million people in the United States during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
It was the issue in the George Holliday video-recorded beating of Rodney King.
It was the issue in the subsequent trial and acquittal of LAPD officers Koon, Powell, Briseno and Wind, as well as the riots that followed the acquittal.
Race was the issue in the televised trial of O.J. Simpson, charged with the murders of Ron Goldman and Nicole Simpson, or certainly in the acquittal, which was clearly a reaction against the acquittal of the four cops who beat Rodney King. After all, the ex-wife and her boyfriend were white, something no one ever got around to mentioning during the trial.
It was certainly the issue earlier this year when two white Jasper, Texas policemen beat Sha Diggles.
And it is the issue in the trial of George Zimmerman, on trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin.
By God, we don’t like talking about race in this country, probably because the psychological contradictions become more and more difficult to resolve. Nobody–not even Zimmerman–thinks of himself as a bad person. So how can a good person (or one who views himself as such) be guilty of a racist crime? As Nietzsche said, “My memory says I did this. My pride says I cannot have done this. Eventually, memory yields.”
Just for entertainment purposes, had I been the defense attorney, I would have stipulated that George Zimmerman was a racist, that he tracked down Martin with the intent of scaring him away, or maybe even roughing him up. The legal issue in Florida is the so-called “Stand Your Ground Law,” the essence of which states that a person is justified in using self-defense even if he or she in all likelihood provoked the precipitating incident. The gun-toter, in other words, is not required to retreat before taking action. Since this law applies to business-owners and home-owners, which race of people benefit most from it? Who are the majority of the business and home-owners in the United States?
As I write this, the attorneys are making their closing arguments. Being the cynical bastard that I am, my expectation is that Zimmerman will be acquitted of all charges, or at best, be found guilty only of manslaughter, rather than second degree murder. My preference, of course, is that the guilt be doled out appropriately. But what I would really like is that someone involved in this case stop using safe words like “profiling” and make the honest and more accurate argument that many non-blacks are irrationally terrified of African-Americans, and especially of young black men.
Perhaps then–at long last–we could begin to comprehend the continued relevance of our nation’s psychological motives for the racism that pervades it–on all sides.

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