These were just a few of the nearly 200, probably over 200 comments left on Nola.com‘s reporting of the recent incident in Florida (of course) of a white man (Michael Drejka) shooting a Black man (Markeis McGlockton) after he (Drejka) was shoved to the ground. Drejka was shoved to the ground because he was harassing McGlockton’s girlfriend over her idling in a handicapped parking spot. After Drejka was on the ground, McGlockton stood there, he didn’t run at him, he didn’t make any movement suggestive of his going to go back to strike further. He shoved and waited as if he were trying to make sure Drejka understood he needed to stop harassing people. Instead Drejka pulled out his concealed weapon like he was the lead in an action movie, aimed, and fired. There were other people within close proximity who saw the gun get pulled and had to run, in fear for their own lives. Imagine if they too had a gun and felt threatened by Drejka’s gun draw…it would’ve been straight wild-west.
Here’s the rub, and I think the comments of Anonymous 3 and Anonymous 4 sum it up the best, Stand Your Ground Laws are only employed for the benefit of white folks killing Black people. This same scenario occurring in a low-income neighborhood between two Black men would be ‘tsk-tsked’ by the rest of society. The shooting would be considered an over-reaction to a simple fist fight. If this were two Black men, the shooter would’ve been arrested, because the rest of society wouldn’t empathize with the idea that he feared for his life. There is no such thing as Stand Your Ground in low-income or predominately Black or high crime (of any racial makeup) neighborhoods.
Then, we would hear all about both the shooter’s and the victim’s backgrounds–their criminal histories, their mama’s criminal histories, whether their fathers were in their lives, if they had kids out of wedlock, whether he went to school or not. We would hear all sorts of statistics about black-on-black crime, about crime-ridden neighborhoods and drugs and unemployment levels, about how those places and those people have a “culture of violence” and don’t value life, about how we need more after-school programs and mentoring. The question of whether Black man 1 feared for his life due to the actions of Black man 2, would never be entered into the equation. There would just be one dead man and another man in jail.
But when we have these mixed race situation, the rhetoric that follows pulls out every racist trope and mitigating circumstance possible. The Black man (or teen in the case of Trayvon Martin) will inevitably be characterized as young, virile, and of superhuman strength coupled with uncontrollable rage–Angry Black Men, Black Bucks, Black Brutes, Superpredators.
The white man has to shoot because the superhuman strength of Black men’s fists can only be matched by gunfire. He had to have feared for his life, because Black men are scary. And any age difference, from a few years to a couple of decades is capitalized on. Drejka is being portrayed as an old man, a way to heighten the fear he must have felt, to make him seem more sympathetic. Drejka is 47. He doesn’t even qualify for AARP.
Someone more eloquent than I once remarked that when these types of incidents happen we always invoke these temporal imaginings–‘we don’t know what happened before, and we don’t know what could’ve happened after.’ This imagining of what could’ve happened had the “aggressor” not been killed is just another socially acceptable way to espouse racist ideology. There is no world in which we imagine what could’ve happened if a woman had pushed Drejka, because she’s just a woman, and even if she got the drop on him she wouldn’t be able to cause any real harm now that he’s alert to a fight. There is no world in which we imagine what could’ve happened if this were two Black men, because obviously black-on-black is equally matched. This imagining only happens when we have preconceived notions about who’s dangerous and who’s a good guy.
The thing we always seem to skirt over in these scenarios is what provoked them. When Trayvon Martin was murdered, the news/courts/society decided the time clock would begin when Trayvon got in a physical altercation with Zimmerman. Never mind that Zimmerman wasn’t minding his own damn business playing neighborhood watch and police officer, never mind that even after he called the police and the dispatcher told him NOT to pursue Martin and to stay in his car he went after him anyway, never mind that Trayvon felt like he was being stalked by a grown ass man at night on an isolated street and his fight/flight/freeze system kicked in. All that matters is that a young Black body hit a white identifying man. That in itself is enough to activate Stand Your Ground, is enough to justify death, is enough to get away with murder.
Here we have the same damn thing, a white man not minding his own damn business, playing parking monitor, enforcing a law that wasn’t his job or business to enforce. Never mind that Drejka was harassing someone, never mind that we’ve seen instance after instance of violent white men who start off with verbally abusive and violent behavior and escalate to physical violence, which would logically instill a level of fear in the woman in the car and in McGlockton on behalf of his girlfriend, never mind that Drejka probably wouldn’t have been so cavalier in the first place if he wasn’t strapped.
The time clock starts when the big scary Black man pushes the “non-violent,” “old,” white man on the ground. Not before. Right then. And his verbal abuse and harassment is completely justified because the Black woman was breaking the law.
Stand Your Ground is bullshit. It’s not equally applied to all citizens and isn’t logically applied at all. We’ve got too many angry cowards with concealed carry permits looking for a fight to justify the few instances when this law might actually make sense. This is just another way for racial terrorism to continue unchecked, and society swoops in to the defense of white (appearing) men who kill Black people because white society still doesn’t see us as beings worthy of the same human rights and empathy.
We need to stop deluding ourselves about how advanced we are as a nation, that we’re a democracy, a place of laws and order and civility; that we care about people, that we’re a Christian nation, that we’re any better than the developing nations we thumb our noses at because they’re supposedly more dangerous and corrupt and uncivilized than the US. The only thing we uniquely thrive at in this country is packaging our chaos, hatred, and dysfunction with pretty wrapping paper and a bow, making it seem desirable and logical. Smoke and mirrors.
It’s the fucking wild west out here, and that’s apparently the way we really want it, because we keep voting for laws (and the politicians who write them) to maintain the crazy. We don’t value life or liberty, we value the right to control who lives and determine who deserves liberty.
THIS is America.
Aren’t we sick of this yet?
Markeis McGlockton. Say His Name.
Update: Drejka was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison on Oct 10, 2019. I guess someone was sick of this.