George Zimmerman is now in custody and has been charged with second degree murder, yet our fight for justice is far from over.
The Florida Legislature should call a special session immediately to address and fix the state's Stand Your Ground law before the law authorizes another act of unjustified self-defense. Whenever we pass a law that lends itself to gross injustice, we have legalized lawlessness. As the Trayvon Martin case unfolds before us, our legislative leadership has to address the results of this law in front of the nation, and the world.
Florida's Stand Your Ground law provides immunity from arrest unless police have probable cause to believe self-defense does not apply. In this provision, police are asked to act as law enforcement, judge and jury. This law takes away the checks and balances system we need in place for due process and justice to prevail. Due process in the Trayvon Martin case would have required some uniform guidelines in place for the police officers to determine whether self defense existed or not.
People say this case is about a bad law, not about race. I don't think the problems with the law have anything to do with race.
Conversely, I do think the killing of Trayvon Martin is all about race; racial profiling. It's also about Zimmerman not being black. This belief is supported by a similar case that occurred in 2010 — and less than 100 miles away from where Trayvon was killed.
In that case, Trevor Dooley, a black man, killed a white man and claimed self-defense based on the Stand Your Ground law. Dooley was eventually arrested and put on trial for manslaughter. While his fate is currently pending, Dooley clearly was not afforded the same confidence in his statement of self-defense that Zimmerman initially got.
The tragedy laden in the Trayvon Martin case has brought universal pain to our human family. What we have uncovered is the idea that people process individuals of color in a negative light and that fact can result in death.
As black men, we carry the burden of other people's suspicions as they relate to stereotypes about us. Because of this, we change the dialect and tone in our voices, we smile excessively, we dress conservatively and do many other things to appear approachable and trustworthy. It should not just be our responsibility to not appear intimidating or, as Geraldo naively stated, "to not put our kids in hoodies."
As an attorney, I understand the judicial system is imperfect, and equal justice is an idea that we must constantly work towards as a nation. Because of this, I recently wrote our legislative leadership, imploring them to call a session to allow legal professionals to testify to the apparent ramifications of Stand Your Ground law. Although a thorough analysis of the law should have occurred before it passed, Florida still has the opportunity to reverse this law and set a precedent for dozens of other states that have similar laws on their books.
I write this from the perspective of an American who understands that our country has much to fix, yet so much to be proud of. America is a tremendous nation. We are a people naturally emboldened as a nation because we have all stood with the world against great threats and we have overcome and triumphed together.
While the Trayvon Martin case has challenged us as a country, we must reflect on our modern day manifest destiny; the belief that all men are created equal. We must make the tough evaluations and challenge our own images and thoughts of hoodies and hoods, ex-criminals and color.
Florida should change the Stand Your Ground law and provide justice for all, and in the name of Trayvon Martin.