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Doctors will tell you that some of the main causes of heart disease include activities like eating foods high in fat/cholesterol, smoking and lack of exercise.  And in order to prevent the onset of cardio vascular disease, what does the doctor do?  Tell us to cut out the fat/cholesterol/smoking and of course exercise more.  Before a major catastrophe takes place, doctors will urge us to change our ways and take active steps towards altering our lifestyle in order to thwart health care issues.  Each and every one of us must do the same when it comes to politics and the rule of law.  While it is absolutely necessary to protest and demonstrate whenever an injustice occurs, we should be doing more to ensure that the travesty doesn’t happen in the first place.  Just like we would take measures to curb a health calamity, we have to take appropriate steps to stop the calamities taking hold of our community.

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Unless you live under a rock, chances are, you’re well aware of the tragic shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL.  Most of us have also become familiar with the outrageous ‘stand your ground’ laws found in FL. and around the country that allow people like George Zimmerman (Trayvon’s confessed killer) to claim self-defense.  But while it’s commendable that so many of us are  learning and studying this insane law and the real impact it’s having in everyday life, it’s not enough.  Why must we react when something horrific like Trayvon’s shooting occurs?  What happened to being proactive?  The problem simply is that both you and I just don’t pay enough attention.  We come out for national elections, but not enough for local ones.  We don’t research thoroughly to see who is running, what his/her platform is and why those positions matter.  And once we vote, we don’t stay engaged to see what’s happening.  We can’t just suppress our symptoms of pain once they take place – it’s time for some preventative care.

The basic principal in ‘stand your ground’ laws is that there is no duty to retreat when being attacked or threatened with bodily harm in a place that a person has the right to be.  And in the state of Florida, a person may use deadly force when he/she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself.  But did you know that states like Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Washington, Tennessee and more have their own versions of the law?  Dangerous legislation like ‘stand your ground’ is being passed while we  are asleep with our eyes open.

An informed citizen is an empowered citizen, point blank.  When we know what sorts of policies are proposed, who is in power, who has the ability to make these policies become law and just how these laws will impact us, we can do something before a tragedy takes place.  All of us need to stay engaged in the struggle for justice however we can.  That’s why organizations like National Action Network (NAN) work year round to keep people focused on the fight for civil rights so when cases like Trayvon Martin, Ramarley Graham, Sean Bell or others happen, we already know what to do because we have a strategy.

We are all guilty of not paying enough attention..  In 2008, Monroe County in NY State proposed a similar ‘stand your ground’ law that thankfully didn’t pass.  But I didn’t even know that it was proposed.  We – myself included – can no longer use this excuse.

Not knowing is no longer an excuse; ignorance isn’t bliss, it’s the problem.  Become informed and involved.  Each of us can work in our neighborhoods to make sure that the Trayvons of the world grow up with an equal shot at life, and without fear of laws that would cut those very lives short.

Why We Must Stand Our Ground Against “Stand Your Ground”  was originally published on