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Searching for justice in the Trayvon Martin case

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty  April 13, 2012 09:00 AM

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Despite what others may say, justice has not been done in the Trayvon Martin shooting death simply because the accused shooter, George Zimmerman, has been indicted for second-degree murder.

If we had real justice in America, Trayvon Martin would still be alive.

Real justice requires that we examine why we have permitted our fear of difference to trump traditional American values of due process and equal justice under the law. It requires that we ask ourselves why we have become so afraid of one another and our differences that we feel the need to arm ourselves and to be on the lookout for the so-called "enemy within" our communities?

Where once America stood for the proposition that it takes a village to raise a child, we now cage ourselves in gated communities and nurture our paranoia on messages encouraging us to be vigilant for the so-called "enemy within."

Where once America had a war on poverty, we now have a war on the poor, youth, communities of color, and immigrants who live in our midst.

"See something, say something." And if you look hard enough and long enough, you'll surely see someone who makes you uncomfortable. More often than not, it will be someone who wears a hoodie, a beard, or a headscarf. If you get scared enough, you may even take matters in your own hands, as George Zimmerman did.

Or you may call the police. But police and lawmakers, too, are victims in this culture of fear. Why else did the police do a drug test on the corpse of a dead boy wearing a hoodie, but not on the man who admits to having shot him? How else can you explain efforts by some members of the Massachusetts legislature to introduce the heinous "stand your ground" bill that gives private citizens a right to use deadly force with less oversight than we currently give to police officers? Current law appropriately protects victims of violent attacks who respond in self-defense if they cannot otherwise protect themselves. We don't need a new law that would give cover to violence as a first choice instead of a last resort.

We also don't need a three strikes bill that will lock up more of our youth or a law requiring primary enforcement of the seat belt law, when experience shows that such laws merely give the police an excuse to stop people who "look suspicious."

For real justice, we should instead eliminate mandatory minimum sentences that lock up people for minor drug offenses, and invest our tax dollars in public education programs that teach tolerance and diversity, keeping more kids in school, out of prison--and alive.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Carol Rose is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. A lawyer and journalist, Carol has spent her career working for and writing about human rights and civil liberties, both in the United States and abroad. More »

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