The Resurgence of ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws and What It Could Mean for Black Citizens

The Resurgence of ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws and What It Could Mean for Black Citizens


David Love

The criminalization of Black people and the use of white vigilantism as a weapon of violence against us are by no means a new concept in America. After all, violence and the very palpable threat of death have followed Black people for 400 years in the land of the free. However, in recent years, part of that legacy of anti-Black violence had assumed a new name: Stand Your Ground.

Beginning in Florida in 2005, through the efforts of conservative lawmakers, the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council, states across the country enacted Stand Your Ground laws. The legislation allows armed people to use deadly force, invoking self-defense as a justification for killing someone they believe poses an imminent threat. Often, these laws justify the murder of Black people by whites. Between 2012 and 2016, Stand Your Ground bills have failed in state legislatures. But now, in GOP-controlled states, these laws — likely motivated by racism — are making a comeback. Black lawmakers, who represent 10 percent of state legislators, are fighting the resurgence of these laws born from segregation fear and ignorance, as The Trace reported.

While U.S. law traditionally followed the “castle doctrine” — which says the home is one’s castle and allows a person to defend his or her home through deadly force without legal consequences — this new breed of legislation has enabled the use of deadly force outside of the home or anywhere, whether or not the alleged perpetrator is armed. Within the context of racial justice, Stand Your Ground has proven highly problematic in a nation that views Black people as a threat to public safety, and where white people have relished the opportunity to deputize themselves in the policing and taking of Black lives.