Like so many of you, I was outraged—but not surprised—by the Michael Dunn verdict.
Just two years after Trayvon Martin was killed, another Florida jury has told us what we already know: Our nation’s gun laws do not protect the innocent, the justice system is deeply unfair and our media culture continues to create an environment that puts young African Americans in harm’s way.
The hung jury in the Dunn trial reminds us again of the hard work that is left to do on the long road toward justice. But our members are up for the challenge. And we hope you are, too.
If shoot-first laws are like matches, then racism and bias in the media are gasoline—fueling and empowering vigilantes and putting young people of color in danger. For us at ColorOfChange, this work isn’t just about changing so-called “Stand your ground” laws, but it’s also about changing the attitudes and culture reinforced by the media that places such a minimal value on black lives. In a media environment that continues to cast black men and boys as nothing more than thugs, it’s sadly not surprising that the tragic deaths of innocent young men, such as Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin, become character trials for black people everywhere. The media’s portrayals cannot be taken lightly when their words and images put lives at risk.
Before we can have real policy changes that will protect us, we must change the media culture that harms us. With successes in our work to end the television shows COPS and All My Babies’ Mamas, as well as ongoing efforts to educate and engage key stakeholders behind the scenes, we are working to push the news and mainstream media to present more evenhanded, accurate and multidimensional portrayals of our communities.
At the same time, until shoot-first laws are abolished, we will continue to witness tragedies like the ones that took Jordan Davis away from his family and led to the tragedies we saw with Renisha McBride and Trayvon Martin. As of today, more than 150,000 ColorOfChange members have called for an end to “Stand your ground” laws, which undermine public safety and give killers the opportunity to walk free.
Over the course of the next two years, we will be partnering with organizations on the state and local level—amplifying our members’ voices and stories in campaigns to overturn “Stand your ground” laws and fight against the introduction of new forms of these laws. In the process, we will continue to expose corporate and special interest ties that put these laws on the books, such as the connection between the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council. The deadly partnership between the NRA and ALEC is responsible for advancing “Stand your ground” and shoot-first laws in 31 states across the nation.
We sincerely hope that you’ll join us as we continue to respond and build through these tragedies. I often tell people that at ColorOfChange, we work to turn moments to movements. This is certainly another moment, and our young people and their families deserve and need a strong, powerful and strategic movement.
Rashad Robinson is executive director of ColorOfChange.org, the nation's largest online civil rights organization. Follow ColorOfChange.org on Twitter.
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