On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was killed in Sanford, Florida. All of us know the story by now. A boy, only holding a bag of Skittles and ice tea, was tracked down and killed by self-appointed community watchman George Zimmerman. All outside observers of the case, which didn’t become well known nationally until a few weeks later, said this was the biggest open-and-shut case that there was. 9-1-1 tapes even prove Zimmerman’s guilt even more, as Trayvon is yelling for help, while Zimmerman claims Trayvon was on top of him. Surely, if someone was on top of someone and beating them, it would be highly unlikely that the person doing the beating would be crying for help.
Anyway, this murder was brought to light because of Florida’s archaic “Stand Your Ground” law…or as I like to call it “Shoot First, Ask Questions Later” law. Like the case in general, people around Florida and the nation started to question why this law even existed. The news even stopped talking about Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who were instrumental in the passage of the law, as possible Vice Presidential candidates. The progressive movement was starting to turn the tide on gun control. This seemed like there could possibly be a defeat for the NRA (and there still might be).
But being in pure defensive mode, the gun-lovers and the conservatives had to circle the wagons, and the crazy talk began. The issue of “the hoodie” started coming up. The fact that he was a black kid that was much taller and looked stronger than Zimmerman came up as well. Basically, a number of racially charged issues came from the right. And when these conservatives tried to defend their backward law by using race as the motivator, many Americans saw the conservatives as being totally out of line, and they were.
But the bait was set.
Now, before we get any further, let me explain my theory regarding Republican “craziness”. Progressives always look at what conservatives say and think “that is just nuts”. But Republicans say these crazy things for a reason. 2010 was about the nuttiest election that we have had, and the Republicans won with that nuttiness. True, there are the purely crazy people. But, trust me, whenever Santorum says something crazy, there is a method to his madness, literally.
So, as I said, the bait had been laid. The bait was race.
And, as sure as the sun is in the sky at high noon, the bait was being taken. African-American legislators started talking about race. Corrine Brown and Gary Siplin talked more about race being an issue on MSNBC than the shooting itself. Jesse Jackson Sr. said there needed to be a talk about race in this country. And then we have the Bobby Rush “hoodie in Congress” moment. As soon as the conservatives put race out there, the debate changed from re-examining the “Stand Your Ground” law to a debate about race.
With this being said, I now look at the people who are most like me, the white suburbanite. Once race starts to play a role in something, no matter what the issue, many times each race goes to their respective corner. O.J. Simpson, the LA Riots, Michael Vick. All of these cases, we have seen race divide instead of unite. We are at the point where that is starting to happen with this case.
Why do I say that? Well, coverage of the case is starting to decrease. Whites don’t talk about the case as much as they did two weeks ago. Some whites are even wondering if the absurd case of George Zimmerman feeling “threatened” and” just defended himself” as being justified. Basically, white suburbanite interest in this case sank overnight as soon as both sides started talking about race, and not as much about the “Stand Your Ground” law.
Therefore, the conservatives, GOP and the NRA did their job. They realized that they might lose this battle. Therefore, throw the race card out there and somehow, someway, this issue would become about race, as it surely did.
Now, do I think race was a factor? Absolutely. But that isn’t the debate we should be having. The reason that we started debating this issue was because a kid was killed by a guy with a gun, and the guy used the archaic law as his defense. If Zimmerman didn’t have a gun, we wouldn’t even be talking about this case at all. This is where the debate should be right now.
There are two ways that I think we can get this issue back on track. First, let’s take race out of this case entirely. In fact, Trayvon Martin’s mother said that this isn’t about race. If we can’t listen to her reason, since she is the real living victim, then who can we listen to? We need to focus on the issue of “Stand Your Ground” right now.
Second, I am proposing a direct challenge to the non-African-American lawmakers in the State of Florida. Since this case has come to light, only the African-American legislators have been working to get this law overturned. And while the response from the GOP-lead Florida government have been disappointing, I commend these lawmakers for being the only ones standing up for this issue.
I have many of the white and Hispanic legislators on my Facebook, and I see their updates daily. Rarely, if ever, do I see them talking about the Trayvon Martin case. Yes, they tweet or update us that they are glad they are visiting some Democratic group or whatnot, but they constantly remain silent on this issue.
So, I am giving those legislators a direct challenge. If you consider yourself a true progressive and you are in the Florida House and Senate, start talking about repealing the “Stand Your Ground” law. You might only be in Tallahassee a few days out of the year, but you represent the people of Florida and your district all year long. We can repeal this archaic law, and your silence on this issue is only making the conservative’s argument stronger. So I directly challenge you…talk about this issue!
We are at a crossroads in Florida politics where Floridians might realize that electing Republicans has been a huge mistake. Let’s not legitimize these Republican by staying silent on this issue. Let’s make some noise.
Also, let’s not let them control the debate and make it about race. Let us control the debate, and make it about guns.