The killing of Trayvon
Martin reminds us that the death of an innocent person is
senseless and tragic, whether at the hands of a self-appointed
executioner, assassin, vigilante or lynch mob - or the state
itself. Whether the violence is privatized or state-sponsored,
the end result is inherently barbaric.
so many others in the past, black boys have provided a convenient
target, and a scapegoat that was made to order.
are by no means the monopoly of black and Latino young people
and yet, hoodies are being used as a proxy for black criminality.
And the badge of black criminality, in turn, stems from
the stigma of slavery. Based on the assumption that two
or more black men congregating in public constituted an
uprising, the Slave Codes - and the Black Codes after the
Civil War and Jim Crow laws after Reconstruction - restricted
the movement and activities of black people. The goal was
to limit their freedom and deprive them of their rights.
under the Fugitive Slave Act, officials could deputize entire
white communities to hunt down and capture suspected fugitive
slaves, whether or not they actually were slaves. Ultimately,
slave or free, all blacks were slaves, or criminals for
that matter. No warrant was necessary, just someone who
claimed ownership, whether or not that person actually was
a slave owner. Yes, the George Zimmermans of that day thought
they had a right, because they did. In fact, it was their
years, black mothers and fathers have advised their sons
on what and what not to do or say when confronting white
folks in public, in an effort to save their babies’ lives
from the Ku Klux Klan, the angry mob, the police, and other
purveyors of extrajudicial executions. Black men were lynched
and disappeared, later found in some river, as was the case
with Emmett Till in 1955 Mississippi. Till was lynched by two white men
for allegedly whistling at a white woman.
lynching found its way to the court system, it was dressed
up and made respectable under the guise of capital punishment.
Same lynch mob, different venue - or at least, the mob was
told to go home and let the kangaroo courts reach the desired
1944, 14-year-old George
Stinney became the youngest person in the past century
to meet his death in the electric chair. At 5’ 1” and all
of 95 pounds, the diminutive black boy was convicted of
the impossible - applying blunt force trauma to the heads
of two white girls by way of a railroad spike, shattering
their skulls simultaneously in multiple places and leaving
them in a ditch. There was no physical evidence. Stinney
was interrogated without parents present, and coerced into
a confession of which there was no written record. The all-white-male
jury deliberated for only 10 minutes before passing
judgment on one of their so-called “peers.” They needed
to tie someone to the murders, and Stinney was the perfect
to today. The National Rifle Association and the American
Legislative Exchange Council - or ALEC,
Brothers-funded operation that has brought us voter
ID, union-busting, forced transvaginal ultrasounds and other
deplorable legislation - want to enact “Stand Your Ground”
laws in all 50 states. The law, which is supported
by corporations, adopted by at least 21 states and first
adopted in Florida, breaks with centuries of legal tradition.
The Castle Doctrine allows people to use deadly force in
defending the home if they have a reasonable fear of death
or serious bodily harm to themselves or others. Deadly force,
however, was a last option, as there was a “duty
to retreat” in order to defuse the situation.
under “Stand Your Ground” laws, there is no duty to retreat.
A person has a right to “stand one’s ground” and use deadly
force anywhere he or she feels threatened - in the home
or on the street. Critics rightly concluded the law lays
the groundwork for a shoot ‘em up, Wild Wild West environment.
Moreover, it doesn’t take much legal knowledge to realize
that the new law forever turns the concept of self-defense
on its head.
those who are inclined to “blame it on a black man” have
found their excuse to kill a black or Latino youth because
they don’t like them or feel threatened by them, and believe
youth of color are dangerous and prone to violence. This
paves the way for Trayvon Martin-style, race-based assassinations
- a privatized sort of execution made legal, and vigilante
justice with all the guns you care to use. Now, this should
that the state-sponsored variety of executions is any better.
BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor, David
A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights advocate based
in Philadelphia, is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania
Law School. and a contributor to The Huffington
Post, the Grio, The Progressive
Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service,
Times and Philadelphia
Independent Media Center. He also blogs at davidalove.com, NewsOne, Daily Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.