Trayvon Martin Updates

President Obama just gave a brief statement in the Rose Garden, which he prefaced by saying he had to be careful so as not to influence the investigation. He said he was thinking about Trayvon's parents, and that the case made him think about his own children—and that, if he had a son, that son would look like Trayvon Martin.

He said Trayvon Martin's parents are right to expect that this case should be taken seriously, and that he's glad the Justice Department is looking into the case, because it is imperative that every aspect be investigated.

He also said: "I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how something like this happened."

The President did have to be careful, for more reasons of course than merely influencing the investigation, and it was an excellent statement in my estimation. It will, it should, make a difference for privileged USians to hear their president say that something like this could happen to his child.

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi said Thursday that they had appointed a new prosecutor to investigate the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and would appoint a committee on citizen safety that would examine the state's "Stand Your Ground" law. Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, was killed by a self-described neighborhood watch guard in February.

In a statement, Scott called for the task force "to investigate how to make sure a tragedy such as this does not occur in the future, while at the same time, protecting the fundamental rights of all our citizens – especially the right to feel protected and safe in our state."
That's an interesting choice of words: "The right to feel protected and safe." Surely, people have a right to be safe, but lots of people who actually are safe nonetheless do not feel safe. Lots of people imagine that they are going to be hurt by someone not like them, some terrorist, some gang member, some random teenage boy walking down the sidewalk with iced tea and Skittles in his hands.

Feeling safe—or not feeling safe—is at the very center of this case: George Zimmerman did not feel safe, even though he was, entirely so.

On the other hand, Trayvon Martin certainly did not feel safe—and he wasn't.

Are African-Americans, black Cuban-Americans, and other dark-skinned people in Florida going to feel safe, ever, after this incident (and others like it which have received less attention)?

Whose feelings of safety are really being privileged here?

The most pointed problem with "Stand Your Ground" laws is that people who feel unsafe, irrespective of whether they have a legitimate reason to feel unsafe, implicitly have their fears justified. The laws intrinsically convey people are trying to hurt you and there's something scary out there and you should feel afraid, always afraid. So, ironically, these laws do not in any way encourage feelings of safety and security in fearful people. They entrench fear.

And that makes the world a very dangerous place for the people they're afraid of. People like Trayvon Martin.

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Other stuff worth reading:

MSNBC: Survivor of 'shoot first' incident tells his tale. "He meant for me to be dead and he never called 911."

Think Progress: Sanford Commissioners Who Voted In Support Of Police Chief To Face Recall. "Two Sanford city commissioners who, amidst widespread outrage at the police investigation of Trayvon Martin's death, sided with police chief Bill Lee at a meeting last night, will soon face a recall."

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