In one of his best speeches to date, Barack Obama said that we should not let the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial halt America’s progress towards becoming a safer place. Yet, other than the reminder that racial profiling still exists in this country, Obama didn’t really tell us what we could possibly learn from the outcome of the trial and the horrific events that led up to it.
He must have forgotten that it’s through terrible things, like unnecessary death, that this country evolves. This is how the world becomes a safer place – through tragedy and unforgiving mistakes.
The outcome of the Zimmerman trial made us all aware of an aspect of our justice system that needs to be changed in order for America to continue its evolution into a more civilized and just nation. The saddest part about this aspect is that a 15-year-old boy shouldn’t have had to die for us to become aware of it.
This legal provision in reference is, of course, the Stand Your Ground laws. Most of us hadn’t heard of this law before the Zimmerman case went public, but once again, this is what it takes for our country to educate itself on a massive scale. This mass education is what ignites the overwhelming pressure to make important legal changes.
The Stand Your Ground laws state that it’s okay to kill someone if you feel they are trying to kill you, even if you have the option of retreating or ending the fight using non-lethal methods.
Whether you agree with the law or not, it’s impossible to deny that its broad, vague definition has the potential to allow someone to get away with something very, very wrong. And that’s just what happened in this absolutely despicable verdict.
The outcome of the trial had nothing to do with race. Trayvon Martin was putting a vicious beating on George Zimmerman, and the aforementioned law says it’s okay for someone on the receiving end of a situation such as this to kill the attacker. End of story.
The jurors had no choice but to abide by the law, as we learned in Anderson Cooper’s interview with the juror known as Juror B37. Upon hearing the foundation of the trial, three out of the six female jurors wanted to convict Zimmerman of either manslaughter or murder (those are apparently different now). But once the jury learned of the Stand Your Ground laws, the six of them agreed that regardless of what they felt should be done, they did not possess the authority to defy the law.
The most unsettling part of the Stand Your Ground laws is the idea of deeming a physical assault as life threatening. Who knows what type of ‘evidence’ constitutes this label. This cannot simply be determined by specific injuries, witness accounts or even historical evidence involving similar situations. It’s definitions like this that are the primary cause for the growing distrust of our legal system, and it’s honestly pretty scary to think about how many other laws (like say, those involving surveillance rights) also have vague definitions that are often re-defined with each case.
Unfortunately, like many fairly modern laws (this one was created in 1995), it could be argued that Stand Your Ground was put into action more for the effect it has on the economy, rather than on the well-being of the American people. The gun industry (because we have a gun industry) profits immensely off of the fear of domestic violence, and if we were to start harshly punishing people for using guns to defend themselves, less people would buy guns, which means the legacy the Republican party sells to get elected would slowly dissolve. In turn, there would be less Republicans in office and that just can’t happen because hardcore Republicans love guns like hardcore liberals love marijuana, and when rich white people get angry, stuff actually happens.
So realistically, there isn’t a good chance of this law being repealed anytime soon. Our economy is still not where we want it to be, and the risk of weakening or simply challenging such a profitable and powerful industry is high enough for, as we learned in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, even a considerable amount of Democrats to vote against decreasing the likelihood of violence.
The National Rifle Association also pays each Congressman millions of dollars to prevent any law that restricts gun sales or ownership from being passed.
This doesn’t, however, mean there’s no way this country can prosper from the outcome of the Zimmerman trial. There will always be racists like George Zimmerman who believe that the less poor black people we have in the world, the better off we all will be. That’s why we shouldn’t be mad that people like him exist. We should use the outcome of the trial as more evidence that it’s not racial tension, but rather, laws like Stand Your Ground that are the most significant perpetuators of horror and injustice in this country.
That’s the only way we can trigger the previously mentioned mass education, which history has shown us, is the key component to taking meaningful steps towards prosperity. We just have to hope that we can encourage this movement before the Zimmerman case repeats itself.
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