Many bills are adopted in Congress and in state legislatures every year that have controversial and unintended consequences that are revealed after the bill becomes law. Stand Your Ground is one such law and like so many others, certain segments of Stand Your Ground should be amended out — or Stand Your Ground should be repealed.
The governor has convened a task force to study the legislation; some state senators have done the same. The Justice Department will conduct a thorough and independent investigation. In fact, the investigations are going on at every level of government in this case. The Congressional Black Caucus is asking the Justice Department to look into the ever-changing interpretation of Stand Your Ground in cases we have witnessed personally in Florida, including the Marissa Alexander case in Jacksonville.
Trayvon Martin was a child. In fact, he was 17 for only three weeks — just past 16 when he was murdered. He was followed by George Zimmerman in his truck, who said, “they always get away.” George Zimmerman got out of his truck after being advised not to, and he continued to stalk Trayvon on foot to pick a fight.
It can’t be Stand Your Ground when you are the aggressor. In 2005, the entire Florida state Senate, including myself, voted for Stand Your Ground. None of us ever dreamed that a bill we voted for would cause a child to be profiled, stalked and murdered, and that the murderer would not be arrested by claiming self-defense because he was standing his ground. We all want the law changed.
We live in a country where there is a widespread perception that associates black youth with criminal activity. They are suspicious just by being black. Black boys live in world where profiling will follow them for the rest of their lives.
As I watch and interact with boys and men every day, I know that it is hard for a 16-year-old child to beat up a 28-year-old man. A child cannot beat a man unless he is scared out of his mind and the adrenalin flowing gives him extra muscles and puredee strength.
Trayvon had neither a criminal record nor a documented history of violent behavior like his killer. And some people are questioning whether Trayvon Martin was a thug. For what? For acting like a teenager? Millions of teenagers wear hoodies, post photos on Facebook, experiment with marijuana and get suspended from high school.
Trayvon came from a good family. His brother is a junior at FIU. He was clean-cut and well-spoken, on his way to be somebody just like his brother. Now, instead of his mother watching him cross the stage at his graduation, she saw him in a casket lowered into the cold ground — dead way too soon.
I was one of the loudest voices demanding the arrest of George Zimmerman. We got the arrest. Now, let’s not lose focus. Let’s not put Trayvon on trial. Remember, he was killed. He is dead. He was a child. A child who was profiled, stalked, chased, made to fight for his life and murdered.
Our focus and legacy for Trayvon should be preventing other good families from suffering like Trayvon’s. I established the Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys in Florida in 2007 when I was in the state Senate.
We need a commission like this at the federal level. I am filing such legislation in early June.
It would address the disparity that black men and boys face in healthcare, education, criminal justice and racial profiling.
Years of economic and legal disenfranchisement, the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, have led to these disparities and fueled prejudice against black men and boys.
Trayvon was a victim of this legacy. We need a national conversation about racial profiling. We need to have it now.
U.S. Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, a Democrat, represents Florida’s 17th District, which includes parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.