The Shame of SanfordBy Diana Robinson-Bardyn | New Smyrna Beach
The world is perplexed when the police force in a
small southern town nonchalantly accepts a vigilante’s claim of being
threatened by an unarmed boy.
Today a small town in Florida is the center of a national controversy and global interest. Not since talk of chads and the U.S. presidential
race of 2000 plunged the nation into uncertainty has Florida been the
focus of so much international attention.
It is not a surprise that headlines in Der Spiegel read “Die Schande
von Sanford”, The Shame of Sanford. In the French and German press there are ample references to President Obama’s statement, “If I had a son,
he would look like Trayvon.”
“Mon fils ressemblerait à Trayvon Martin”
“Wenn ich einen Sohn hätte, er sähe aus wie Trayvon”
There are differences between children and adults, and there is a
difference between a child carrying a bag of Skittles and a man carrying a lethal weapon. The world takes note when the police force in a small
southern town can so nonchalantly ignore those differences. Together we
are learning that we have a ‘Stand Your Ground’ law that seems to
provide a legitimate “license to kill” – a kind of green light coverage – to any vigilante who is threatened by hoodies, dark skin or Skittles.
Florida’s criminal justice system is not without questionable racial
disparities. It is a criminal justice system known for sentencing
children to life without parole (JLWOP) for non-homicidal crimes, a
practice that disproportionately affected young African-Americans, and
judged them, sometimes at the age of 14, as irredeemable. The Supreme
Court ruled against this barbaric practice unique to the US and Israel
in Graham vs Florida in 2010. At the time 77 of the 129 offenders sentenced as juveniles to life
without parole were in the State of Florida. The remaining 52 were
scattered in 10 states.
A new report published by The Sentencing Project, a national organization working for a more effective criminal justice
system, found “extreme” racial disparities in the number of juveniles
sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed before their 18th
Yes, there is a difference between a child carrying a bag of Skittles and a man carrying an armed revolver. Young Trayvon Martin was killed
in cold blood. He was killed because of a dangerous mindset that judged
hoodies and dark skin as suspicious. He was killed because of Florida’s
shoot first law, a law that empowers and legitimizes racist vigilantes
by providing them with a defense they would not otherwise be entitled
Zimmerman is still free because the Sanford police determined that a
220 pound armed White man who was in pursuit of a 140 pound unarmed
Black kid could credibly claim he was threatened.
That is incredible, and that is the shame of Sanford.
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