Two fathers in the state of Florida are spending this Father's Day feeling the wrath of the state's now infamous "Stand Your Ground Law." One father, Tracy Martin, the father of Trayvon Martin of Miami, is grappling with having his son killed on a visit to the Central Florida town of Sanford. Another father, Derrick Spillman, the father of former Florida International University (FIU) running back Kendall Berry from the small Central Florida town of Haines City is still trying to cope with the killing of his son on FIU's Miami campus in March of 2010 (http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=5029605).
Both of the perpetuators of these killings, in Berry's case another young black male and in Martin's case a non-black male, are using the "Stand Your Ground Law" as a defense for their actions. Both young men were killed during apparent fights. This begs several questions that the state and the nation have to wrestle with. Has the state of Florida granted an individual engaged in an altercation an automatic license to kill? Can a person who may find themselves on the losing end of a fight lawfully use lethal force to take the life of another? How much does the fact that the victim is a young black male weigh on the application of the law? What does the fact that it took weeks of nationwide protests just for an arrest to happen in Martin's case and an intense letter writing campaign that spanned months for Berry's killing to warrant a trial say about the value of the life of the young black male?
The devaluation and dehumanization of people based on their darker shade of melanin has been maintained and entrenched throughout American history. The very constitution that set the legal standard for the country once deemed black people as being three-fifths of a human being. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee he was there supporting the rights of sanitation workers to be recognized as full human beings and as equal citizens. Their slogan as reflected by the signs that the protesters carried was simply "I am a Man."
Today, both Tracy Martin and Derrick Spillman are pushing for the repeal of Florida's "Stand Your Ground Law." The jolting of this legislation into the national spotlight has highlighted both its uneven application in the case of Marissa Alexander and its usage as a justification for using a fight as an excuse to take the life of another. The Trayvon Martin case has led many to think critically about the fine line between valid self-defense and using an extreme amount of excessive force in a fight. Unfortunately, neither the conviction of the killers of Trayvon Martin and Kendall Berry nor the repealing of the state's "Stand Your Ground Law" will bring back either of the young men. What it will do, however, is make a significant statement in the interest of justice and the valuation of the lives of all people regardless of their race, gender, religion, or legal status.