We need to transcend the narrow dichotomy that we are being fed by the corporate media and other agents of power about Stand Your Ground laws. The longer we are exposed to these narratives, the more it becomes apparent that dialogue is limited to the province of legislation. When discussing “self-defense,” we tend to fixate on what the court recognizes as a reasonable defense; while overlooking and taking for granted the baggage of the first term in the phrase: self

Before the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States were written, black folks were forced to undergo what Frantz Fanon calls a “metaphysical wiping out.” This refers to the way slavery stripped black people of their name, language, body, labor, land, family, history, religion, tradition, etc. Blackness was meant to be nothing more than a commodity that could be accumulated, traded, and/or destroyed at the will of the master. In an anti-black world, blackness is that which has always lacked a legitimate “self.” We cannot stand our ground if nothing is properly ours.

The first thing one needs to make a coherent claim for self-defense is a self. Whiteness is the standard for humanity – it is deemed good, beautiful, healthy, etc. Since black folks lack that self, we are demonized as animals who destroy the biological and moral fabrics of humanity. Whiteness always needs to defend itself from the “threat” of blackness.

This, of course, means that the violence of white folks is typically seen as “justified” when the victim is black. Black folks are to be violated with impunity. The reasoning then becomes: if white folks want to harm us, that is their right – so if we dare to “defend” our “selves” from this harm, we are punished for violating their right to harm us. We cannot stand our ground if we aren’t supposed to take a stand at all. 

The government gets to decide which pleas of self-defense are valid or not. This is the same government that grants police the power to kill us and then claim “justifiable homicide.” This is the same government that uses the military to bomb black and brown nations – and then claim it was a “preemptive strike.” We cannot stand our ground if the government would prefer to put our bodies in the ground.

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