Skip to main content

'Stand your ground' is only part of story

By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
July 23, 2013 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, is joined by her son Jahvaris Fulton as she speaks to the crowd during a rally in New York City, Saturday, July 20. A jury in Florida acquitted Zimmerman of all charges related to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/27/justice/gallery/zimmerman-trial/index.html'>View photos of key moments from the trial.</a> Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, is joined by her son Jahvaris Fulton as she speaks to the crowd during a rally in New York City, Saturday, July 20. A jury in Florida acquitted Zimmerman of all charges related to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. View photos of key moments from the trial.
HIDE CAPTION
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Photos: Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
Reaction to Zimmerman verdict
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ruben Navarrette: Much of talk on Trayvon Martin deals with "stand your ground" law
  • He says there are other issues worth exploring, including racial/ethnic profiling
  • Navarrette: Latinos are often left out of the discussion about race in America
  • He says the danger of political prosecutions is also worthy of consideration

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.

(CNN) -- The fact that President Barack Obama, Sen. John McCain and other elected officials have said that they believe Americans should re-evaluate "stand your ground" laws in response to the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin no doubt plays well with those who want strict gun laws.

But regardless of the merits of that argument, that discussion shouldn't prevent people from considering other issues Americans should be wrestling with in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict.

Here are 10 such issues that deserve a hearing. We should be talking about:

• How the media handle, and often mishandle, the touchy topics of race and ethnicity. One minute, they are tiptoeing around the subject because they don't want to inflame tensions; the next, they are all thumbs, slapping inaccurate labels on people and framing stories in what is now an antiquated black-and-white paradigm.

Ruben Navarrette
Ruben Navarrette

• Why an individual who was not a trained law enforcement officer but instead a volunteer monitoring his surroundings for what he considered suspicious activity, either on his own or as part of an official neighborhood program, was carrying a loaded weapon and felt justified in using lethal force.

• Racial and ethnic profiling, but not just in the way that we typically discuss it: that is, white people who are in a position of authority allegedly making unfair and uninformed snap judgments about black people. Profiling is a fact of life, but it isn't only white people who do it, and it isn't only black people who have to suffer through it.

• Where Latinos fit into this storyline as well as what ground they occupy in the dominant narrative of a nation divided between whites and blacks. This is no small colony. We're talking about 52 million Latinos throughout the United States who represent 16.9% of the U.S. population. African-Americans account for 13.1%.

Thousands protest Zimmerman verdict
Zimmerman verdict sparks debate
Alberto Gonzales on race and the law

• Why the leaders of Hispanic advocacy groups and 501(c)(3) organizations that are supposed to give voice to the voiceless and speak up for Hispanics in their hour of need were silent during the trial and didn't come to Zimmerman's defense despite the fact the defendant was identified as Hispanic early on.

• The newly strained relationship between Obama and those many in the African-American community who want stronger leadership from the president and federal criminal civil rights charges brought against Zimmerman and who consider Obama's reaction to the verdict to be weak and inadequate.

• Whether the portion of the African-American community that feels this way will be at all satisfied with the president's heartfelt remarks Friday detailing his experience with racial profiling and explaining how he identifies with Martin, if there are, in the end, no federal charges against Zimmerman.

• The fate of the awkward term "white Hispanic," which appears to have been concocted by the media and affixed to Zimmerman and which now probably deserves to be retired from public use since it made for endless trouble and stirred resentment from both whites and Hispanics.

• The dangers of political prosecutions, and what can go wrong when police and prosecutors initially decide that no criminal charges should be filed in a given case only to reverse themselves later after a public outcry and overcharge the defendant with a murder case they couldn't prove.

• And finally, whether -- in our obsession over race -- we're missing another part of the story. Could this be about testosterone -- what happens when two males square off, and neither wants to back down?

The sliding scales of self-defense

Politicians gravitate to volatile, and often unresolvable political issues, and that's why some in Washington naturally want to start a national conversation about "stand your ground" laws. From there, it's a short walk into the highly charged political topic of gun control with all its fund-raising possibilities. I get that.

Fine. Let's talk about those laws. But we can multitask. And there are other urgent issues to deal with -- the sort that are bubbling just under the surface as a result of the controversial outcome of the Zimmerman verdict.

In the final analysis, it may well be that "stand your ground" laws are too loosely written and need to be changed. But as you well know if you paid attention to this heart-wrenching trial and its troubling aftermath, that's not all that needs changing in our society.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 0105 GMT (0905 HKT)
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT