Ralph Bunche Journal of Public Affairs

Publication Date

Spring 2016


There is a long history of American states’ codification of “fear” into laws. Laws that can be traced as far back as the 17th century, which were devised to appease white America’s perceived fear of Blacks. Slave Acts were the first of such laws. When slavery was abolished rendering slave laws obsolete, Black Codes and then Jim Crow laws took effect. For over three centuries, these overt racial laws justified racial fear and legitimized the deprivation of basic human and civil rights of Black Americans. Although overt racial laws such as the Codes and Jim Crow have been abolished, covert racial laws such as voter identification, war on drugs, and SYG laws are their modern equivalence. Neutral on their face, covert racial laws like their brethren, overt racial laws, have a disproportionate effect on the black community with Stand Your Ground having the most lethal effect – death. Stand Your Ground laws allow citizens to use force including deadly force in locations including but not limited to the home and eliminates the retreat requirement. It also grants individuals complete immunity from criminal and civil liability when claiming Stand Your Ground’s self-defense. The Castle Doctrine limits citizens’ use of deadly force in one's own home only and only if retreat is impossible. The castle doctrine grants no civil or criminal immunities. Like Black Codes and Slave Codes, Stand Your Ground laws deprive Blacks of their human and civil rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. As the states, the federal government, and the public confront the challenges created by Stand Your Ground laws and the right of self-defense, a balance must be struck between these competing interests.



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