Trayvon Martin is dead and George Zimmerman is a free man. Trayvon could have been our president’s son, but also the son of any of our black and brown family and friends. George Zimmerman, too, could be our child, especially in a world where law and public opinion support his thinking and actions. These are the laws that support a system of structural racism, where the effect of our policies and institutional practices go unquestioned, even when they have a disproportionately negative effect on people of color. This is a public swimming in the implicit bias that allows justification of fear and violence.

The “Stand Your Ground” law that made George Zimmerman’s actions legally defensible in Florida exists in some version in at least 23 other states. Minnesota was nearly one of them, if not for Governor Dayton’s veto of a similar expanded self defense law in 2012. But that nearly half of states make acting with lethal force with no duty to retreat justifiable is troubling, especially when we consider what has resulted because of these laws.

The result in states with Stand Your Ground laws shows substantial racial disparities in these “justifiable homicide rulings.” A study by researchers at the Urban Institute pointed to the disparities:


By Vina Kay, Organizing Apprenticeship Project


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