by BAR editor and columnist Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
The racist vigilantism that killed Trayvon Martin has spread far beyond Florida, where justifiable homicides have tripled and “vigilantes are obviously a protected class, occupying the position of judge, jury and executioner.” More than 30 states have enacted laws similar to Stand Your Ground. “We have the power to roll back these reactionary and racist laws.”
The Political Will to Protect Our Children: By Any Means Necessary
by BAR editor and columnist Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
“Why not flex our collective economic muscle and force the repeal of the murderous Stand Your Ground Laws?”
There was a time when a woman refusing to move from her seat inspired demonstrations, a city- wide boycott and activation. But now a 17-year-old boy is murdered and the best most of us can do is remain in our seats and sign online petitions.
We have become politically flaccid and sometimes I wonder how we dare complain when we exercise so little initiative to become the “change we want to see,” as Gandhi put it.
It’s reasonable to wonder if the African-American political elite want real political change or just increased access to more money?
Last week Bruce A. Dixon, managing editor of BAR put it well, “For Obama and the black political class, interested only in their own careers, Trayvon Martin will be an empty slogan, a symbol. Their own careers are proof enough that rolling back the prison state won't be accomplished at the voting booth.”
It’s lamentable that Trayvon’s name has become a commodity, a product used to sell and buy merchandise. His parents have already patented his name so they can protect it against those who would use it to generate income. Their child is worth more than a ready cause for the sloganeers and pamphleteers.
“Preventing the procreation of Black children by incarcerating Black men appears to be the latest strategy of choice by those seeking to inflict the “final solution” on Black people in America.”
Conversely, let’s look at the prison state. Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker on January 30th, reminded us that, there are more black men in the grip of the American criminal-justice system today than there were in slavery in 1850. And, there are more African-American men in prison than currently attending college, weakening an already fragile black family structure and providing fewer men of marriage age and desirability for black women. Preventing the procreation of Black children by incarcerating Black men appears to be the latest strategy of choice by those seeking to inflict the “final solution” on Black people in America.
There are more people under "correctional supervision" in America (more than 6 million) than there were in the Russian gulag under Stalin, at its height. More than 50,000 men are currently in solitary confinement in the US. In 1980, 220 people were incarcerated for every 100,000 Americans; in 2010, the figure had risen to 731. "No other country even approaches that," writes Gopnik.
And in the last 20 years, the money states spend on prisons in the U.S. has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education.
A perverted system creates warped outcomes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that in some US “hotspots” the rate of HIV infection among African-American women is five times higher than the national rate.
“There are more people under "correctional supervision" in America (more than 6 million) than there were in the Russian gulag under Stalin, at its height.”
And then we have the Stand Your Ground law in Florida and 20 other states that allowed George Zimmerman to shoot Trayvon Martin and walk out of the police station, with his gun, a free man.
A Tampa Bay Times investigation found that claims of justifiable homicide have tripled in Florida since the Stand Your Ground law was passed in 2005. The newspaper reported that the law has been cited at least 130 times in homicide and assault cases. In more than half of those cases the person who claimed he felt under threat of attack was never placed on trial. The Klu Klux Klan could not have designed a more efficient system to mainstream the execution of black men. In Florida, vigilantes are obviously a protected class, occupying the position of judge, jury and executioner.
The National Rifle Association – which pushed for the laws and is trying to get them passed in Alaska has, on its website, the story of a Florida man, Alfonso Gallo from Sarasota County who was exonerated of second-degree murder charges by the Appeals Court. Watch the video because the NRA gives the shooter’s version.
The NRA reporter notes eyewitness accounts that said Gallo stood over the body of the man he shot and continued firing at others. Despite this, the judge in the appeal found that there was sufficient evidence to show that Gallo acted in self-defense.
A Wall Street Journal analysis has found that killings classified as self-defense doubled from 2000 to 2010 – this at a time when crime is plummeting across the United States. So why do so many people feel so fearful that they have to kill, at a time when crime is so low?
Why is it okay to shoot to kill? No compulsion to shoot to injure? A body or head shot is almost always going to be fatal, while shooting the leg will stop an attacker and leave it up to the courts to decide who the offender is. What are we to say of 21 states that have legalized white vigilantism and essentially declared war on young black men?
What does it say about the state of African-American politics that we have slumbered as such laws were passed that have allowed law enforcement authorities and their unofficial agents, such as George Zimmerman, to carry out urban executions of our children?
“What are we to say of 21 states that have legalized white vigilantism and essentially declared war on young black men?”
We can claim prior ignorance but not now. Not now as we feel the fear that grips us as we watch our children, particularly black boys, walk out the door and monitor the time as we wait for their return.
It’s Easter week and so I have been meditating on the relevance of politically active believers, such as King and Gandhi, who took to the streets to confront evil. Gandhi, once said “never bend one’s knee before an oppressor,” also said that for real change, we need to suffer within oneself. Real change demands sacrifice.
And that means real sacrifice and commitment to real change.
After the mayor of Miami snubbed Nelson Mandela because of his friendship with Fidel Castro on his first visit to the United States, African Americans began boycotting Miami hotels and convention centers. Within a few weeks it had cost the state $26 million. Those costs kept rising and suddenly Miami-Dade and Florida began changing laws to accommodate African Americans. Over two years there were changes in the workplace and in communities. It’s about time we began thinking and acting in measures that last longer than a march or an Internet petition.
The power is in our pocketbooks and our willingness to confront evil. If we want justice for Trayvon Martin, and if we want a dangerous law to be repealed in 21 states, then it’s about time we acted strategically. Why not flex our collective economic muscle and force the repeal of the murderous Stand Your Ground Laws? We have the power to roll back these reactionary and racist laws. We only need to remember and draw strength from the struggles of Birmingham and Selma. The question is do we have the political will and organization to protect our children, by any means necessary?
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is the author of No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA is available through amazon.com and the National Whistleblower Center. Dr. Coleman-Adebayo worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered vanadium mine workers. Marsha's successful lawsuit lead to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR.)
See Marsha on C-Span Book/TV at:www.marshacoleman-adebayo.org.