Thursday, April 7, 2022

the last book I ever read (Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, excerpt four)

from Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal:

In America, we’ve taken that ancient right to self-defense and made it more violent and bloodthirsty. The right to self-defense used to include a duty to retreat. That made sense: you can defend yourself from deadly force with deadly force, but if you can safely get away from deadly force, you should be all means do so. But I guess retreat isn’t performatively masculine enough for the assortment of weekend warriors and ammosexuals who get to make the rules in this country. Most state governments now specifically reject the duty to retreat, and the most deadly form of that rejection has been codified in “stand your ground” laws in many jurisdictions.

Understand, the right to self-defense, as applied in this country, is one of the most provably racist functions of law that we have statistics for, and stand your ground just makes those racial disparities worse. One well-respected study by the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center found that white people who kill Black people are 250 percent more likely to have their homicides ruled as “justified” than when white people kill other white people. In stand your ground states, that number jumps to 354 percent—it is 354 percent more likely that white people will be ruled as justified in their killings of Black people.

“Self-defense” is how white people get away with murder. It is a textbook example of a “race-neutral” concept that has been applied with deep prejudice against Black people. It doesn’t matter if the Black person was armed, unarmed, strong, weak, fast, slow, or just walking home with some Skittles. If a white person kills that Black person, they always have a chance to “get out of jail free” by claiming self-defense.

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