Stand your ground — as long as you’re white
by Bill Press
July 21, 2013 11:19 PM | 1099 views | 6 6 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most of us were not surprised by the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. But millions of us were nonetheless disappointed and ashamed for the world to see that in this great country, in the 21st century, it’s still possible for a white man to shoot and kill an unarmed black teenager who did nothing wrong — and walk.

On the night of Feb. 26, 2012, George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year old Trayvon Martin. Yet on the night of July 13, 2013, George Zimmerman learned he would pay no price for it. No second-degree murder conviction. Not even manslaughter. He got his freedom back. He got his life back. He’s getting his gun back. Trayvon Martin was not so lucky.

So what should we do when faced with such an unjust outcome? Being such a polite crowd, here’s what’s been drilled into us: two things. First, we’re all supposed to shrug our shoulders, and say: “Oh well, I may disagree with it, but I still accept the jury’s verdict.” Then we’re supposed to nod our heads and agree: “Of course, race had nothing to do with it.” To both of which I say: Nonsense! There’s no way to accept that outcome as valid. And race had everything to do with both the crime and the verdict.

Zimmerman may not have been guilty of second-degree murder, but he was clearly guilty of manslaughter. Remember, he’s no model citizen. In July 2005, this wanna-be cop was arrested for attacking a cop. One month later, his former fiancee filed a complaint against him for domestic violence and got a restraining order. As a member of the neighborhood watch, he was not supposed to carry a gun, but he did. The night of Feb. 26, he was told to stay in his car, but he didn’t. He chased Martin down and confronted him, leading to a fight — which, apparently, Zimmerman ended up losing. But that doesn’t necessitate or justify murder.

And why did Zimmerman pursue Martin? Not just because he was young. Not just because he was wearing a hoodie. But because he was young, wearing a hoodie — and he was black. According to police records, before confronting Martin, he’d made at least 46 calls to 911, reporting “suspicious” black males. Two days after the shooting, his cousin told police officers: “I know George. And I know that he does not like black people.” And we’re supposed to believe this wasn’t a case of racial profiling?

If he were a white teen, Trayvon Martin would still be alive today. And if roles were reversed, if Trayvon Martin, black man, had claimed to have shot and killed George Zimmerman, white man, in self-defense, Martin would already be on death row.

In 2012, John Roman of the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center reported on “Frontline” that in “Stand Your Ground” states, white people who kill black people are 354 percent more likely to be found justified in their killings than white people who kill white people. And it’s not a lot better in non-“Stand Your Ground” states, where that number goes down to 250 percent. The deck of justice is clearly stacked against black males. As it was stacked against Trayvon Martin that night.

And if you don’t think racism played a role in the jury’s deliberations, here’s what jury member B37 told CNN’s Anderson Cooper about what Trayvon Martin did to justify Zimmerman’s reporting him and confronting him: “... him being late at night, dark at night, raining, and anybody would think anybody walking down the road, stopping and turning and looking, if that’s exactly what happened, is suspicious.” Translation: black teen walking in the rain at night? Guilty!

It’s true, as many have said, that some good could come out of this tragedy if we used the occasion to reform or repeal “Stand Your Ground” laws now on the books in 31 states. But chances for that are slim.

After Newtown, we were supposed to have a national conversation about gun safety. But nobody’s talking about guns anymore. After Edward Snowden, President Obama proposed a national conversation about privacy. Nobody’s talking about privacy anymore, either. And now, after the Zimmerman trial, we’re supposed to have a national conversation about race? Sorry. We don’t have time. We’re too busy talking about the cover of Rolling Stone. Or the royal baby.

Bill Press is host of a nationally-syndicated radio show.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
John Smith
July 28, 2013
I think YOU and this article are responsible for the beating death of Joshua Millew by 4 blacks who were angry over the verdice. I hope you get what is coming to you!
July 22, 2013
Obama voted for the Stand Your Ground law in Illinois, one of the few things he actually took a stand on during his short term in the state senate.

Bill, you are missing about eighty percent of the facts. Or cherry picking. You know what they say about assuming..
July 22, 2013
Translation: black teen walking in the rain at night? Guilty!

And just how did he know this was a black teen wearing a hoodie on a rainy dark night and some distance away Bill? Could have been anyone including a Latino like Zimmerman. Sounds like you are stuck in Trayvons 15 minutes of fame. It is over Bill. The new royal baby is more interesting than the stupid melodrama we have been exposed to for much too long now.
Mike Woodliff
July 22, 2013
It is pointless, and I'm a dupe, to even comment on Bill Press's commentary. He is nothing but a subscribed pundit who never reads our comments. Does the MDJ really believe that Press reads our comments? He doesn't even know this paper exists. Let's dump him in favor of local commentators, be they liberal or conservative.
July 22, 2013
Bill, please hire someone to remind you when it's time to take your meds. Either that or you have full blown dementia. This heap of garbage you have just spewed out?! You have GOT to be kidding me!
Jim Stoll
July 22, 2013
There is another truism that no one likes to talk about very much. It is the type of country where African American live, versus the type of country where white folks live. The country where African Americans live is not a country that was constructed by white folks in order to have a place to throw African Americans when they misbehave. The African American country is a place that was constructed by African Americans, is ruled by African Americans and is what African Americans want it to be and it will exist as long as African Americans want it to exist. As Bill Cosby always said: "If you want to get out of black country, you must grab yourselves by your bootstraps and pull yourself up. No one else can do it for you".
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides