Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice System is a powerful book by Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, the dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. In it, Douglas examines the history of the policing of Black bodies in the United States, with...
Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice System is a powerful book by Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, the dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. In it, Douglas examines the history of the policing of Black bodies in the United States, with a focus on “Stand Your Ground” laws. Through an in-depth analysis of this history, she explores critical questions regarding social injustice and religious conceptions of justice.
Stand Your Ground laws are laws that permit a person to kill another person in self-defense in a public area, regardless if safe de-escalation is possible. This is the opposite of Duty to Retreat laws, in which a person is not allowed to use deadly force against another person in their home, vehicle, or other private space if it is possible to safely retreat and de-escalate the situation. Stand Your Ground laws have played a significant role in the policing of Black bodies in the United States, as they have let many white people go unpunished for killing Black people. For instance, Douglas focuses on the role of these laws in the case of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot by George Zimmerman in 2012. Zimmerman was found not guilty because of Stand Your Ground laws. Douglas discusses how this verdict shocked the Black community and made many people question how God could allow for such injustice.
The first part of the book is a historical overview of how Stand Your Ground laws came to be and how their history is intertwined with the history of white supremacism. They were created to protect castles, but Douglas shows how their creation allowed white people to protect their bodies while hurting others. “Stand Your Ground law signals a social-cultural climate that makes the destruction and death of black bodies inevitable and even permissible,” Douglas writes.
The second part of the book is about religion and how it is important that rampant injustice does not shatter faith. For example, Douglas writes about what it is like to think about Trayvon’s death from her personal perspective as a religious mother. Ultimately, she celebrates the power of Black faith and encourages the Black community not to lose trust in God even in the fact of such grave injustice. She argues that Black faith is a “counternarrative” to narratives of white supremacy and keeping the faith is thus a way to actively resist racism.