Laws are not essentially moral. They do not always need to be followed – indeed some need to be specifically broken often and with impudence. That’s a tenet of the pacifist and justice movements – whether laying down in front of a deportation holding center or planting peace gardens or occupying privatized parks or soon-to-be privatized schools or foreclosed homes – that demands to push the written and codified law to the breaking point in order to flash a light on the great injustice that is being protested.But even if we followed all the laws and all the codes of conduct written and unwritten, some of us will be specifically targeted.
The Stand Your Ground laws are immoral and need to be broken. But how to protest such a law? If the Zimmerman trial didn’t show the fundamental racist injustice and unnecessary violence of this male-supremacist set of laws (face it, any legislation that justifies violence and killing will always favor the White cis-male) because it was fundamentally broken and racist itself, what options do we have to show how horrible this law is? If the hunting and murder of a youth carrying candy and tea didn’t shine a forcible light into the conscience of White America, what will?
Will the law be overturned only when white men are regularly gunned down as black men and women stand above them in entitled defiance? Oh, that doesn’t ever work. The black man must have instigated it. The woman must have shot him in cold blood. The black woman, that’s a double damn. No, she can’t even fire a warning shot in Florida even when she has good reason to believe her life is in imminent danger from her raging husband.
Let’s face reality in White Supremacist America: Black males are killed by police or their stand-ins every 28 hours. But what’s particularly troubling is the consistency from pre-Civil War to Jim Crow to the so-called post-racial US that has elected a black man to the Oval Office twice is:
the sheer lack of accountability for these killings. Thus far, less than 9 percent of those responsible for the deaths have faced charges, almost all of whom are security guards or vigilantees and all of which have yet to be determined. Despite the fact that an overwhelming number of the victims were definitively unarmed, only 3 percent of officers officers responsible for the deaths have been charged: “3 for vehicular crimes stemming from their crashes, 5 for manslaughter—the killers of Remarley Graham, Wendell Allen, Dane Garrett Scott Jr, Christopher Brown, and Bobby Moore Jr.”
And the justifications are almost always the same: “I felt threatened”, “he reached for his waistband to get what I thought was a gun”, “he was acting suspiciously”, etc. All are based on personal perceptions that are no doubt influenced by racial stereotypes, given that every American is surrounded by a culture that conditions them to fear the “criminal black man”.
A lesson for us USians among the many horrible lessons from the Zimmerman case (and another may be that it wasn’t Mr. Zimmerman on trial but Mr. Martin by default of his blackness and, ergo, his level of presumed guilt and threat) is that any practice that presumes guilt and defends for it using violence is going to target those already on the margins of society and will, usually, in a court of law maintain and sanction that targeting.
How we overturn this targeting, well… right now I don’t have a lot of trust in us. Maybe after I get some sleep and I see some movement, I will.