I try to stay away from the political on this blog, especially when I don't have all the facts. But here are some questions I find myself asking about the Trayvon Martin case.
- Why are we talking about this in terms of the Stand Your Ground law? George Zimmerman was asked by the police dispatcher to stay where he was. Instead of standing his ground, he followed Trayvon Martin with a loaded gun.
- Do you only get to stand your ground if you have a gun? Let's suppose Trayvon Martin did hit George Zimmerman, as Zimmerman claims. If someone is tracking you with a loaded gun, are you allowed to defend yourself, or does Stand Your Ground not apply to standing up with your fists against someone with a gun?
- Is the problem that Stand Your Ground doesn't apply if you're black?
- Do you only get to stand your ground if you kill the other guy, so he can't tell his side of the story?
Do you think the most famous hoodie wearer in New England, Bill Belichik, worries about being shot when he walks down the street? It's not wearing a hoodie that's dangerous; it's wearing a hoodie while being black.
And yet an African-American friend tells me that yes, he has had the talk with his son about how to dress to stay safe, how to talk with police if he ever gets stopped for a traffic violation, how to keep his hands on the steering wheel -- so he doesn't get shot.
Then this friend remarked that "gangsta" is in the eye of the beholder. Telling a kid not to wear a hoodie so people won't think he's a criminal (so he won't get shot) is like telling a woman not to dress in a provocative way so she won't get raped. It's like telling a woman in a conservative Islamic country to cover her hair so she won't stimulate male lust and therefore merit beating. Telling kids not to wear hoodies is saying, just as oppressive cultures say to women, "You have to change how you look because I can't control how I behave."
But it seems to me that one behavior we can all control is not to go stalking some guy at night with a loaded gun in our pocket.