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The racism in the Trayvon case is here:

The justification [of self-defense]… is not available to a person who… initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless… Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm….

There’s the racism. Right there.

It all hinges on that “reasonable belief”. In the culture of racial anxiety and safety paranoia that dominates certain swathes of the USA, it is much easier for a jury to accept that a white man reasonably believes he is in such danger from a black man, than the reverse.

(Note that the accused doesn’t need to be a racist for this to have an effect. Nor does the judge, nor the prosecution or defence, nor the jury.)
(Yes, Zimmerman wasn’t white. Still counts.)
(Yes, the legislation says that the basis of the belief must be the degree of force. Still counts. A punch from a black man is straight-up more terrifying than a punch from a white man.)
(The blockquote above is my selective quoting from the relevant Florida legislation, as excerpted by Ta-Nehisi Coates – read his post too.)

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Pearce | July 17, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Coates’s post has one of the most reasonable discussions I’ve ever read in internet comments.

  2. china | July 17, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    In the culture of racial anxiety and safety paranoia that dominates certain swathes of the USA, it is much easier for a jury to accept that a white man reasonably believes he is in such danger from a black man, than the reverse.

    And when a black man is president… ?

    Is this how we explain the extreme dysfunctionality of US Congress at the moment?

  3. morgue | July 17, 2013 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Pearce: I hadn’t looked. I will, now.
    china: It is clear that what’s going on now is pretty much unprecedented in US political history. It would be foolish to lay all that on Obama’s skin colour, but it would be equally foolish to say that’s not a salient part of the explanation.