Glad To Know We Got Past That Racism Thing, Florida
Especially in Florida you would think at least some semblance of “Maybe, you know, everybody should strive to make themselves more aware of race in society right now” but instead, we get the case of Walter Butler from last August, still awaiting a trial. Just a gentle reminder that this is Florida, and that Stand Your Ground laws are a serious problem that needs to be solved.
Walter Henry Butler, 59, was arrested by Gulf County Sheriffs deputies after shooting Everett Gant, who is black. Gant was shot in the face after he confronted Butler about using racial slurs to address children living in the apartment complex where the two men reside.
Deputies said Butler admitted to shooting the victim, and even called 911 himself to report it, after which he reportedly went back to cooking his dinner. According to reports, officers on the scene said Butler seemed annoyed by the arrest and told officers, “I only shot a n—r.
Butler was charged with attempted murder and a hate crime. He is being held at the Gulf County Jail. Gant is said to be in stable condition and is expected to survive.
Not even a human. Not even an animal, because old white guys love animals. Nope, he shoots a person in the face because somebody came up to him and said “Hey, stop being a racist jerk to these kids” in which case BLAM because he’s just one of those, you know. Please, tell me again how there’s no racism, and how the real problem is that Gant shouldn’t have said anything about Butler’s racial slurs to kids, and that Gant was treading on Butler’s right to be a racist jackass, so that I can ignore you for the rest of my life.
Gant did not survive the shooting. He passed away two months after the incident. Butler’s lawyers will be arguing in September that the charges should be dismissed under Stand Your Ground. If you thought the Zimmerman trial was ugly, this one will certainly raise hackles across the country. I understand that there are some substantive legal issues here in this case compared to the Zimmerman ordeal. Butler’s own words have led him to be charged with a hate crime, something the NAACP and other civil rights organizations are pushing Attorney General Eric Holder to charge George Zimmerman with. But in many ways this case is far worse, and far more of a pernicious example of what racism still means in 2013.
Consider Everett Gant, confronting Butler because of “racial slurs used against children who lived in the building.” In 2013, in GOP Gov. Rick Scott’s “Stand Your Ground” Florida, what Gant did is uncommonly heroic. All he did was stand up for a couple of kids who were being robbed of their dignity as black children, as human children. I have to ask myself living in Kentucky, a state with similar laws, if I possess the courage it took Gant to do this, knowing full well the nature of overt racists like Butler. Knowing full well the difficulty of standing up to not only Butler but the legislative process that ensured the firearm would be at hand for Butler to use, the legislative process that could conceivably give Butler the simple coverage of saying at any time that he “thought his life was in danger” and that he would be justified in using that firearm, I’m not sure if I would have been able to summon that courage to do the right thing. Gant stood up for those voiceless kids and as a result, caught a bullet in the face over his race. It cost him his life.
The real crime here is the fact when, as a black man, I choose to confront somebody using racial slurs in such an overt manner, I have to stop and ask myself how the calculus of the Second Amendment affects my actions and their outcome. I have to ask myself “Does this person have a firearm, and are they likely to use it? Are there any witnesses around who might see this confrontation in case it escalates into physical, possibly lethal violence?” And while thoughts like this may hold true for people of many races and situations ranging from domestic violence to bigotry over gender to what have you, the notion that somebody who looks like me has to pause in 2013 and check themselves on several levels before telling someone that no, it’s not okay to say those words in front of these kids, to say these things to these kids, is still part of a culture of intimidation and societal prejudice that has long been present in states like Florida.
The means to continue oppressive verbal and emotional abuse through the threat of being able to carry out deadly force has long been a specter hovering over minorities of all sociological categories. Continuing the climate of fear — and profiting from it — has a centuries-long history. In part, Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws and the campaign in general to arm a fearful populace and lead them toward defending privilege through any convenient means remains a shameful relic of our long, ugly past on race. The sooner we all realize what the true purpose of these laws are, the sooner we can work to get rid of them.
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