The entire nation was shocked by the acquittal of George Zimmerman for murdering Trayvon Martin last year. By now most of us have had the opportunity to grieve, reflect and engage in public actions to express our anger at the injustice of the verdict. People across the country are now calling for Florida to repeal the infamous “Stand Your Ground” law, which played a key role in the delay in arresting Zimmerman and his ultimately getting acquitted. It is important that we support the work in Florida to get this law, which is applied in a racially biased manner (see Marissa Alexander
case), repealed. But that can in no way be the end.
Individual racial animus and bias are only part of the problem. There are numerous laws and policies that interact with practices, behaviors and attitudes to produce racialized outcomes in our society. It was unconscious bias on the part of Zimmerman, the Sanford Police, prosecutors, and jury that led to Trayvon’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal. However, it was the “Stand Your Ground” law that was the main weapon used to allow Zimmerman to walk away with his freedom.
Behind the “Stand Your Ground” law, which has been proliferated in 32 other states besides Florida, is an organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC brings together big corporations and state legislators to pass laws in different states that negatively impact people of color. ALEC is responsible for the Arizona SB 1070 law and its copycats, which basically make it legal for police to profile Latinos. They are also responsible for numerous states introducing voter ID and other laws to suppress the minority vote. Along with trying to set back civil rights gains over the past 50 years, ALEC works to make sure people of color don’t succeed
economically. Aside from opposing an increase in the minimum wage, ALEC has introduced laws that would prevent cities and municipalities from passing living wage ordinances.
Not since the days of Bull Connor and George Wallace has there been a clearer example of a barrier racial justice. Whether it’s preserving and strengthening public education and public housing, passing comprehensive immigration reform, protecting the right to vote, securing quality jobs for low wage workers of color, giving a second chance to the formerly incarcerated, or just making sure the confessed killer of a young Black male doesn’t go free, ALEC is opposed to it.
Our fight for racial justice heats up next month when ALEC has their conference in Chicago August 7-9. The Workers Center for Racial Justice and countless other organizations and labor unions plan to give them a proper welcome. We're calling on our friends and allies from Chicago and around the country to join us August 7 & 8 for a day and half of mass teach-ins, mobilizations and direct actions. For more information on our ALEC counter conference and the actions being planned email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.