Racial Profiling in Florida Goes Beyond ‘Stand Your Ground’

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While the Trayvon Martin case is receding from the public’s memory, the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing earlier this week to revisit some of the controversial components of the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. In a rare instance of bipartisanship, the committee merged two bills being considered—the Republican-led S.B. 130 and the Democrat-led S.B. 122—into new joint legislation that would change the law. The joint legislation requires local law enforcement agencies to issue guidelines for neighborhood crime-watch programs and stipulates that anyone who provokes a violent confrontation may not hide behind the Stand Your Ground defense. The compromise bill also includes a controversial provision that would allow third parties to sue someone for injury or death resulting from self-defense. The Florida Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill on Tuesday, and the bill will now move to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, but it will likely face much resistance from the more conservative House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

The Florida Senate Judiciary bills are steps in the right direction, but ultimately we need to get rid of all Stand Your Ground laws and enact common-sense laws that do not allow people to shoot first and ask questions later. The existence of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, as well as the Sanford Police Department’s handling of the Trayvon Martin case, speak to a wider pathology in American racial attitudes, one that creates a climate in which racial profiling can continue. George Zimmerman’s act is a symptom of a decades-old, ongoing problem of racial profiling in Florida—and across this nation—and is a problem that expresses itself in forms such as the Stand Your Ground law, stop-and-frisk laws, traffic stops, airport security screenings, and other laws that serve to criminalize youth behavior.

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