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SJM Issues Statement on Zimmerman Case - "Join Us in the Conversation"

posted Aug 1, 2013, 2:58 PM by Sjm Administrator
Scotch Plains/Fanwood, 28 July, 2013 - The steering committee of Social Justice Matters issued the statement below responding to the verdict in the George Zimmerman case and the death of Treyvon Martin.  If you have any questions about the statement, please e-mail us at info@socialjusticematters.org.

We all deplore the violence and loss of life.  The goal of our organization is to open the door to conversations so that we can begin to understand the impact that race has on our perceptions.  

The decision in the Zimmerman case should cause us to ask many questions. President Obama has asked that we all come to understand how others might perceive and understand these events, so that we can continue toward a more perfect union. See the speech at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d87h9nAajqM.

Although many pundits have said that this case was not about race, we would be naive if we did not pause to ask the question “is race and racial profiling still an issue? On “race”, there remain disproportionate, negative impacts on people of color in many areas (for example “stop and frisk” – in New York City, 2011, there were 685,724 police stops made; Blacks comprised 350,743, Latinos comprised 223,740, Whites comprised 61,805. That means that 84% were Black and Latino, even though they comprised only 52% of the New York City population.) See also http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-wallis/lament-from-a-white-fathe_b_3600320.html. We must engage all of our resources to challenge inequity wherever it appears.

On racial profiling, in New Jersey, on December 30, 1999 the State and the U.S. Justice Department entered into a Consent Decree following an investigation into profiling of minority drivers on the state’s highways - an alleged pattern or practice of racially discriminatory conduct by troopers. On September 21, 2009, the consent decree was dissolved on a joint motion by both parties. We commend the reforms made in the management and training of troopers. What if we could make “reforms” in the hearts of people? Think about how young people feel about racial profiling among people that they meet everyday? See article at: http://blog.nj.com/njv_guest_blog/2013/07/we_are_trayvon_martin_opinion.html#incart_river_default

Is the “Stand Your Ground” law appropriate? There are 16 states with Stand Your Ground Laws: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, and Utah. In New Jersey the standard for self-defense is very different than in those states. “Safe retreat” is the order of the day. That is, the New Jersey Self-Defense Law states that the use of “deadly force” is not justifiable, among other things, when “the actor knows that he can avoid the necessity of using such force with complete safety by retreating…” (N.J.S.A. 2C:3-4) What should we teach our children (ALL of our children) about how to respond to conflict? Some pundits believe that the Zimmerman case is similar to that of the Bernard Getz case from 1984. See article at:

 http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/07/12/bernhard-goetz-on-george-zimmerman-the-same-thing-is-happening.html

Should we move toward an armed “vigilante” community? While the right to bear arms is clear from both federal and New Jersey Constitutions, events like what occurred in Sandy Hook, Ct., Sanford, Fla., Aurora, Co., and others, should give us reason for pause. http://www.nhpr.org/post/how-fight-racial-bias-when-its-silent-and-subtle

These are just some of the questions that we believe have been brought to the fore. We believe that a serious, open, and respectful discussion can help us along that path toward a “more perfect union.”  We ask that you join us in these conversations.

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