By now, most have heard of the February 26th fatal shooting of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, by George Zimmerman in Sanford Florida.
People are rightly incensed and it’s showing up all over social and print media, the news and justice system, as it should be.
When people unite behind a cause for social justice there’s potentially great power to effect change. As the message grows, it is important to recognize where it’s important to spend our time, as with any movement.
Otherwise, as fervor waxes, focus wanes.
Successful change movements change. They often begin at a flashpoint, but they have to become focused on something that has a long-term impact to have lasting effect.
For example, the famous Rosa Parks bus ride was a simple moment in time that led to a national desegregation movement.
Movements are multi-faceted, multi-layered, calling for awareness, strategy, demonstrations of civil unrest, policy change, advocacy, leadership…
As multiple petitions bearing his name swell, diluting the strength of his family’s petition… http://www.change.org/petitions/prosecute-the-killer-of-our-son-17-year-old-trayvon-martin … As photos circulate of hooded citizens… As newspaper articles swirl accusing local police and death threats loom for Zimmerman…
Was his life lost for a blip on the radar of Facebook movements and swift conviction of an unstable citizen? Or was it the flashpoint for something bigger? Maybe it was something that speaks to the audacity of the notion that any human life is disposable. Or, maybe it was something that speaks to the crime of the expectation that human rights can be violated by legal games.
What will the Trayvon Martin justice movement be long term?
Many are unaware that the reason his killer wasn’t charged is because Florida voters, along with those in many other states, passed a “Stand Your Ground Law” based on the Castle Doctrine handed down from America’s step-parents in Medieval England.
That vote made it possible for Zimmerman to walk free.
Who would vote for that?
America’s a diverse place. The premise of democracy is that humans are different enough to balance out any extremes in society. So as long as everyone’s voice is able to be considered it shouldn’t get too crazy. The primary way American’s voice is considered when it comes to making laws is by voting. For lawmakers, for legislation to pass, etc.
So if you wanted to remove that balance that comes with everyone having a voice, you would keep some folks from voting at all. For awhile, women and blacks weren’t allowed to vote in the US.
Voting is a right of all Americans though, so how could one rob you of that?
It wouldn’t be as simple as saying you couldn’t vote. Because you can, of your own free will, register to vote. And when you do, you will be identified and your signature captured.
So if anyone can register, how could someone exclude a certain group from voting?
The easiest way to exclude someone is to label them as other. To label them not part of something. That means you have to create a label. And if that label doesn’t say what it’s supposed to, the person it belongs to gets excluded.
What labels do we carry as Americans?
We carry identification.
Ok, well how do they give out I.D.s? Are they free? Are they distributed at work and school? Are you able to get one no matter what? Is it easy to get it replaced if it’s lost? Can it ever be taken from you?
Many take it for granted that in America, you are expected to have some form of I.D. card or driver’s license. It isn’t that easy. And once you have it, you can lose it for a number of reasons.
Maybe you couldn’t get to the DMV because you were working. Maybe you couldn’t order another one because you were broke. Maybe you hung out with the wrong people and went to jail.
All of those problems tend to plague the people who make the least money in America. The people who make the least money are also less likely to vote for laws that put them at risk, financially, physically, or otherwise.
So voting is a big deal.
Well, maybe Florida has no voter registration laws or restrictions that make it tough for people like Trayvon Martin’s parents and their friends to vote against a Stand Your Ground law.
Or not. Florida is pretty infamous for voting chaos. Florida is currently embattled with the Department of Justice because it has passed controversial laws restricting the rights of voters. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/06/justice-department-florida-voting-laws_n_1323940.html
Well, maybe it’s just Florida.
Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Virginia, Delaware, Montana, Idaho, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Michigan, Washington, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Texas all require voters to show some form of ID before being allowed to participate in an election as a registered voter.
A state-by-state look at voter I.D. requirements: http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/voter-id-state-requirements.aspx
Twenty six out of fifty American states think it isn’t enough for an American citizen to take the voluntary steps to register to vote, prove they are who they say they are, and then show up at a polling place on election day.
They think there should be more proof. There should be a clearer label. And hey, if someone can’t prove they’re the registered voter they say they are…
They shouldn’t be allowed to weigh in on whether laws like the Stand Your Ground law should be passed…. They shouldn’t be allowed to vote, for whether they should be required to show I.D. to vote.
Is justice for Trayvon Martin a conviction for George Zimmerman or is it signing a petition for a Constitutional Amendment ensuring our right to vote is really protected?
Voting is a big deal.
Of the 27 Constitutional Amendments, six of them are about voting.