Thursday, July 18, 2013

Forget "Stand Your Ground"

Trey Smith

As reported in The Atlantic, a recent study appears to indicate that race plays a role in the application of "stand you ground" laws. To wit,
The data give credence to claims that such laws introduce bias against black victims and in favor of white shooters, as many have contended. In cases where the shooter was black and the victim white, there was hardly any difference between "Stand Your Ground" and other states: Only 1.4 percent of these homicides were deemed justified in "Stand Your Ground" states, in comparison to 1.1 percent in states without a statute. But, the situation is substantially different when the roles, and races, of shooter and victim are reversed. For murders with a white shooter and a black victim, 16.9 percent were ruled justified in "Stand Your Ground" states. Only 9.5 percent were in states that have no "Stand Your Ground" law on the books.
In the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, Roman provided me with his more recent, more fine-grained analysis of the relationships between shooters and victims, including the types of weapons involved. The racial (black-white) divide was strongest in just the kind of shooting that Zimmerman committed: a fatal shooting involving a handgun and two strangers of different races, neither of whom is in law enforcement. Even in states without "Stand Your Ground" laws, the numbers are stark; 29.3 percent of white-on-black shootings are ruled justifiable, while only 2.9 percent of black-on-white shootings are. But in states that have enacted "Stand Your Ground" laws, the situation is worse: 35.9 percent of white-on-black shootings are ultimately deemed to be self-defense. In the reverse situation, black-on-white shootings, only 3.4 percent of cases have ended with the same verdict.
While the author of this article is focusing on the significant disparities in "stand your ground" states, I think the differences in the other states is just as astounding! If nothing else, it underscores that our justice system is anything but colorblind.

To recap the above for states that have not enacted a "stand your ground" type of law, we find the following:
  • (Older data) Black shooter/White victim: 1.1 percent justifiable
  • (Older data) White Shooter/Black Victim: 9.5 percent justifiable
  • (Newer data) Black Shooter/White victim: 2.9 percent justifiable
  • (Newer data) White Shooter/Black victim: 29.3 percent justifiable
Something is seriously wrong with the picture derived from this data.  What it basically tells us is that in our society a white life is worth far more than a black life.  While I am confident that class has something to do with this skewed picture, there is no denying that race is the biggest factor.

We do not live in a post-racial society.  Racism is alive and well.  The chief difference between the past and now is that America's racism tends not to be as overt as before, but it is so woven into the structure of our society, that it continues to be almost as pervasive.

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