By Evan Stahr, Communications Intern
On October 29, the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights heard testimony on Stand Your Ground laws. These controversial laws, which increase racial disparity in sentencing, were thrown into the light by the killing of Trayvon Martin. I was in attendance for the hearing.
It was alternately moving and infuriating. Lawyers from the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and Harvard Law testified against SYG laws. Representatives Marcia Fudge and Luis Gutierrez – of Cleveland and Chicago, respectively – talked about the negative impact of the laws black, Latino, and low-income communities. Rep. Fudge is also chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Trayvon Martin’s mother was present and gave moving testimony, as did another mother whose child’s killer claimed Stand Your Ground immunity.
The Republican witnesses and Congress members argued in favor of the laws – including the Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Louie “Terror Babies” Gohmert. John Lott, Fox News contributor and writer of something called “Freedomnomics,” spoke on behalf of the Crime Prevention Research Center, making the ridiculous claim that SYG is great for minorities. Most ludicrous of all, Ilya Shapiro of the ultra-conservative Cato Institute claimed, among other things, that feminists are in favor of Stand Your Ground laws.
Even a cursory look through feminist websites disproves conservative claims about minorities and women. Almost immediately after the hearing, Feministing posted a rebuttal to the claim from Cruz and fellow GOP Senator Lindsey Graham that African-Americans benefit from Stand Your Ground: “we only need to look to Marissa Alexander or the family of Trayvon Martin to see just how much black people benefit from Stand Your Ground Laws.” The rebuttal also quoted a study from the Congressional Research Service looking at the disproportionate number of justified homicide rulings in cases involving a white defendant and black victim.
Ms. Magazine posted a similar piece in July 2013 called “Stand Your Ground Increases Racial Bias.” The American Association of University Women called the Trayvon Martin case a “breakdown of justice” and the idea of a post-racial America “a fantasy.” The League of Women Voters stands against ALEC, the group that writes many of these cookie-cutter SYG laws. Debra Guckenheimer, writing on the Feminist Wire, explicitly called justice for Trayvon Martin “a feminist issue.”
NOW also has a stance on Stand Your Ground – repeal it, everywhere, “before another life is taken in the name of vigilantism.”
The statement refers to Stand Your Ground as “a license to kill.” These statements really show the conceit in the logic of Sen. Cruz and Mr. Shapiro – women aren’t made safer by Stand Your Ground, but already-vulnerable members of our society are made even less safe. They assume that women’s groups won’t care if Stand Your Ground endangers African-Americans, as long as women are thrown a bone. They are attempting to turn groups that should be standing in solidarity against each other.
We won’t fall into their trap. Women’s groups should – and largely do – explicitly oppose Stand Your Ground laws. Intersectionality is an absolute necessity; the women’s movement should not be concerned with women to the exclusion of all other groups. In order to achieve true liberation, everyone must be free. Everyone must stand up to unjust laws like Stand Your Ground and show Senator Cruz that his assumptions are wrong.