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Welcome to Florida, Where It Is Always 1950

November 29, 2012

I think I broke the Derailing for Dummies website. I mean, you post a link ten or twelve times on Facebook, Twitter, HuffPo and The Daily KOS and suddenly it has exceeded its bandwidth. Who knew? Sorry!

So all of the shows I watch and all of the groups I am a part of on social media have taken to talking about Jordan Davis. I’m not taking credit for this, OK maybe a touch. There were, I’m sure, tons of people who did exactly what I did, posted all the information we had to any news outlet that might listen and begged for some help. Props to those news outlets that stepped up.

Many people, a really surprising large number of people have responded to this tragedy and my writing on it with some version of “Well, you weren’t there and can’t know what happened. You can’t judge.”

Fuck you. Yes I can. It’s not like this is a one off, isolated incident. Florida is gunning for People of Color, literally.

The other response is “Well, I think you’re overreacting. You can’t blame the whole state.”

Of course not. But I can look to the systematic targeting and scapegoating of PoC but the Republican legislature and the recently Republican governor of the state and call shenanigans at the very least.

Don’t believe me? Come along on the journey of Republican hate. It starts in childhood.

As I mentioned previously, Florida has decided to lower the standards required of black and Latino students instead of, you know, educating them to the previous standard. If you have different standards then you can’t call them standards anymore. What you can call them is separate but equal and as we all know, separate but equal is never equal. It is only ever separate.

At the same time, the school-to-prison pipeline is alive and kicking.

Why is that relevant? Florida is setting up children of color to fail and when they fail scholastically and express their logical frustration behaviorally they are punished far more often and far more severely than their Caucasian counterparts.

And then they’re sent to prison. A felony conviction in Florida effective destroys the possibility of enfranchisement which permanently traps them in second class status. (Everyone should buy the book in the link just previous to this sentence. It is the single best resource on this subject.) The state has also been attempting to privatize the Florida prison system for several years which would remove even the most ephemeral connection to judicial motivations and replace them with profit motivations. Motivation via profit leads to corruption. It has already done so in Florida but they want to try it again.

The push from education to incarceration fuels the stereotype of PoC as more criminal overall which is totally not true in any way but is widely believed.

That belief  along with just the general false stereotypes of black people in general, leads people to see PoC as inherently threatening. Further, the presumption of innocence is pretty much eradicated if the accused or the victim is a felon. So there’s that.

The Stand Your Ground statute in Florida puts the burden of proof on the victim, not the shooter. If also removes the retreat requirement. SYG defenses are effective roughly 70% of the time and are significantly more effect if the person standing their ground is Caucasian and the person who has been shot is otherwise. The Tampa Bay Times has done some outstanding reporting on this, by the way.

While all of this is going on and apparently not feeling that disenfranchising the felons they create is enough, Florida recently did their very best to prevent PoC who have managed to avoid all of these pitfalls from exercising their right to vote.

How are all these things connected? Starting from childhood the state of Florida sets up PoC for failure and future life as convicted felons. In so doing it both enforces a false stereotype and disenfranchises a huge swathe of the populace, a larger percentage than any other state in the nation. In the process, it changes the law to allow people to take advantage of the false stereotype in order to do violence and to mount a legal defense when they do violence. Finally, the state does its best to disenfranchise the group most likely to vote them out of power.

This is the world we live in. This is not an accident. This is a systemic and systematic design. This is Jim Crow.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2012 7:25 PM

    “Seventy-three percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white.” That 14% difference doesn’t seem very significant to me, though I didn’t see anything specifically referencing the race of both the killer and killed. The ratio of minorities to whites in prison startles me a lot more, and is actually dramatic. I agree with you there.

    I’m no gun collector, but I do carry one and I do enjoy owning them and practicing with them. It would scare me to death to ever have to use one on a person, but I wouldn’t hesitate if I was forced into that position. I was mugged at knifepoint by two guys on meth once, and it was up to them whether or not I got cut or murdered. I didn’t have any option to defend myself.

    Anyway, I’m always willing to change my mind if I see that I was under a false impression. I came across that Times database some weeks ago on Reddit, and at the time it reinforced my belief that SYG was more beneficial to the people than it was harmful. Tonight, going through about a dozen of the acquitted or immune killers, I have yet to see one that doesn’t have good evidence indicating that the killer was not guilty.

    The 70% success statistic doesn’t have any meaning, it just tells us that in 70% of those cases, the judge ruled that the killer was justified. I would be interested to see how many of those cases, in your opinion, should have had different rulings or were based on weak evidence.

    Depending on all of that data, maybe some changes to the law are needed. But the basic premise, that you can defend yourself or others against imminent death or great harm, is a good one! If you threaten someone with force, you should be met with equal force.

    Aside from that, Florida does suck. I can’t wait to get out of here.

    • November 29, 2012 7:38 PM

      The race of the killer matters less than that of the victim. Florida values the lives of their black citizens 14% more than those of their white citizens. Having said that there is this data as well. In Stand Your Ground law states, twice as many homicides are justified than in non-stand your ground states, and when white shooters kill black victims, 34% of the homicides are deemed justifiable, but when the shooter is Black and the victim is white, only 3% of deaths are ruled justifiable.

      The 70% success statistic doesn’t have any meaning, it just tells us that in 70% of those cases, the judge ruled that the killer was justified. I would be interested to see how many of those cases, in your opinion, should have had different rulings or were based on weak evidence.

      Examples of successful uses of SYG on weak evidence.

      People often go free under “stand your ground” in cases that seem to make a mockery of what lawmakers intended. One man killed two unarmed people and walked out of jail. Another shot a man as he lay on the ground. Others went free after shooting their victims in the back. In nearly a third of the cases the Times analyzed, defendants initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim — and still went free.

      Similar cases can have opposite outcomes. Depending on who decided their cases, some drug dealers claiming self-defense have gone to prison while others have been set free. (In many of these cases the shooter was white and the victim was not, as mentioned above) The same holds true for killers who left a fight, only to arm themselves and return. Shoot someone from your doorway? Fire on a fleeing burglar? Your case can swing on different interpretations of the law by prosecutors, judge or jury.

      A comprehensive analysis of “stand your ground” decisions is all but impossible. When police and prosecutors decide not to press charges, they don’t always keep records showing how they reached their decisions. And no one keeps track of how many “stand your ground” motions have been filed or their outcomes.

      If you threaten someone with force, you should be met with equal force.

      The level of force equal to a threat would be a threat. Actual force in response to a threat of force is not equal. It is more.

      • November 29, 2012 9:51 PM

        I’ll have to read those other cases, but I did already read the one with the older guy shooting the two unarmed men. The two had alcohol in their systems and were trying to physically remove him from a boat that he had recently purchased from one of them. The victim still legally owned the boat at the time, but the judge must have ruled based on the agreement they had signed to transfer ownership. In any case, it was two younger guys laying hands on a disabled senior citizen. I could see calling it controversial, but certainly not a blatant misuse of the law. I’ll definitely read more of these cases, because I want to be as informed about this as possible. I would only ever use my gun responsibly and with no other choice, but I know that’s not necessarily the mindset of all others who carry guns.

        The level of force equal to a threat would be a threat. Actual force in response to a threat of force is not equal. It is more.

        I have no idea if I just formatted that quote right for this website. But that’s just not the way the law sees it, and for good reason. If a robber claims he has a gun, it’s punished as armed robbery even if he is completely unarmed, just as a tangential example. And we’re not talking about a verbal or idle threat here, we’re talking about what the law and one’s peers define as the threat of imminent death or grievous bodily harm. If someone is advancing on you with a weapon, or a group of people assault you, etc., that’s as good as carrying out the serious harm upon the victim. If you’re menacing someone with a knife and that’s just a bluff, then you chose poorly, because no one else has the ability to read your intentions.

        • November 29, 2012 10:26 PM

          Except, not really. The case of the two unarmed men was, according to the victim’s representatives, actually an instance of a man who did not properly complete the sales requirements to obtain ownership of the boat who then shot two men and claimed that they were attacking him. Technically, the boat still belonged to the victim. However, the only version of the story that was given any credence was the shooters because the victims were dead. The shooter was apprehended fleeing the scene, he had both refused numerous requests to finish the sale and had refused to vacate the property and he too had been drinking.

          All of this solidly proves the point I was making about the flaws in the law.

          And we’re not talking about a verbal or idle threat here, we’re talking about what the law and one’s peers define as the threat of imminent death or grievous bodily harm. .

          Yes we are. We’re absolutely talking about a verbal threat at the very most in this case and in certain cases simply the act of being black in a certain area.

          If someone is advancing on you with a weapon, or a group of people assault you, etc., that’s as good as carrying out the serious harm upon the victim. If you’re menacing someone with a knife and that’s just a bluff, then you chose poorly, because no one else has the ability to read your intentions.

          The problem is that we are not talking about that kind of situation in most of these cases. What we are talking about is a unarmed, nonthreatening victims who are killed for being a few hours or a few blocks too black.

      • November 29, 2012 9:59 PM

        Edit: In that shooting, they hadn’t physically touched him.

  2. November 30, 2012 12:29 AM

    Do we dare to say that all republicans are prejudice? Who votes them into office? The power of the vote still belongs to “we the people.” There are definitely many flaws in the “stand your ground” law, but I like the law. What is imperative is that the judges and the jury are impartial. I strongly believe that personal opinion weighs heavily on a persons decision making. If a person on the jury is in fact a “racist” or a judge is “racist” then of coarse, the victims ethnic background will play a major role on the killers fate. Thank you isobeldebrujah for the very detailed post. Matt, thank you for staying respectful.

    • November 30, 2012 12:56 AM

      I think it would be unfair to say that each individual Republican is prejudiced. It would also be totally unsupportable logically. However, their party doctrine and platform is totally prejudiced and has been for decades.

  3. Kate permalink
    December 7, 2012 1:12 AM

    The only thing that upsets me about the Trayvon and Jordan cases is that as usual black men get attention when racism happens all the while black women like Marissa Alexander goes to jail for 20 years for defending herself against an abusive ex goes unnoticed. I am all for defending black men, but it is imperative that attention be brought to light to the group deemed least human by all of society (and even black men are guilty of doing this too)

    • December 8, 2012 1:21 AM

      I agree that the Marissa Alexander case has not been given the attention that it deserves and I’m actually planning on addressing it next week as a part of a blog on black women, violence and value.

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