Gerald (Jerry) Zezas

Home » Incongruity » Attributive Shortcuts and Stand Your Ground

Attributive Shortcuts and Stand Your Ground

We are all racists.Some are just better at it than others. Just as we are all sexists and ageists (I’m pretty sure that’s actually a thing). The point is, we all tend to me more comfortable around those who are most like us, and tend to categorize those who aren’t. Seeing others through the filter of their race, sex or age is a cheap and simple way for us to assign attributive shortcuts to others, such as intelligence or willingness to work for a living, or some other made-up set of characteristics. It requires little cognitive ability. Its a trait that many smart people share with idiots.

These attributive shortcuts are however, purely subjective and are assigned by any and all of us to anyone we like at any time. When you hear of a shuffleboard game being playing in Florida, you think old people. When you hear of a gossip session over herbal tea you think women, when you hear of a bunch of kids walking around in a bad neighborhood, yeah, you think of black people. Oh yes you do.

These things are part of our nature and reinforce the premise that we are good at seeing patterns (we’re not as good as we think) and so enables us to believe that we’ve got the world figured out. Once again, what I referred to above as attributive shortcuts.

The Florida Stand Your Ground Law (what a horrible name that is) reads, in part:

“A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

The operative words in the above paragraph are “reasonably believes”. This is truly problematic since it relies on reasonableness rather than rationality. The problem is that it can’t be measured quantitatively. Assigning a degree of reasonableness to a decision is like assigning a specific degree of beauty to a poem or a specific degree of stupidity to an imbecile (Although god knows I try).

Reasonable belief lies solely within our consciousness and cannot be measured, nor can it be judged objectively. If an 85-year-old grandma who lives in an all white, gated community where the most difficult decision she makes all day is whether her pants matches her sweater has car trouble in a “bad neighborhood”, and is approached by 4 youths with their pants down around their asses (I’ll let your brain decide what race they are. Ready, ok, I’m sure you’re done), she will likely have visions of that overhyped “knockout game” that was so breathlessly reported by the conservative media a couple of months ago (I think it happened a total of about 5 times but was reported as rampant, especially in conservative media, kinda like they report shark attacks) and in all likelihood will “reasonably believe” that she is in danger and, according to that law, can pull out her legally concealed Glock 19 from the glovebox of her Caddy and go all wild west on them.

Now, if those youths happen to be approaching to help her, well, we’ll probably never know, especially if she’s a good shot. The Glock 19 gives her 17 tries since that’s its magazine capacity, so taking out 4 kids shouldn’t be too hard.

Michael Dunn might have truly believed that he was in some sort of danger. After all, black kids playing “thug” music in an SUV fits right into our attributive shortcut. All us white folk know that the site of more than one of them at a time is almost always trouble (wink, wink). And because there are more of us than there are of them (white folk, that is) we get to use our majority status to determine the relative value of a group of people who we have deemed dangerous. The fact that we have the money to purchase a gun bestows upon us the power of life and death, simply because something scared us. Rational options like driving away or simply putting up with the loud music are apparently not valid options (I am 58 years old and quite specifically remember playing loud music in my car when I was 17, as do most adults. Somehow, though, my life was spared).

Although I don’t have any facts on this, I’d be willing to bet that Michael Dunn, at least once in his life, was in a car with other kids playing loud music. But it probably wasn’t “thug” music, so that makes it OK.

But, according to Michael Dunn and his apologists, my life and his are more valuable than that of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, the kid he killed.

Kinda like the old lady from the gated community in the broken down Caddy. According to Florida 776.013, every time one of us white folk gets scared, we get to kill at least one black kid.



  1. lwk2431 says:

    “The operative words in the above paragraph are “reasonably believes”. This is truly problematic since it relies on reasonableness rather than rationality.”

    It has always been problematic, before and after stand your ground laws. But the bottom line is that if the evidence warrants taking it to court, a jury will try to determine – as best they can – whether a mythical “reasonable man” would have seen the situation the same. This method – a jury seeing the evidence – is the best method we have ever had, and probably the best possible (assuming the prosecution doesn’t hide evidence as they have been known to do).

    I wrote an article a while back to demonstrate the stand your ground laws are a very good idea and often help reduce injustice when a law abiding citizen uses deadly force in self defense..

    Stand Your Ground and Self Defense

    In Martin/Zimmerman case the objective evidence was way over the top for Zimmerman, a fact totally ignored by their media in their attempt to incite a race war.



    • Thanks for your comments. If we returned to the days when a person had an obligation to retreat when possible, we wouldn’t be relying on juries, sometimes over a year later, to look into the reasonableness of someone’s actions, especially as relates to taking another life.

      Secondly, suggesting that “the media” (who you have not defined) is trying to start a “race war” (as if they’re all in cahoots) sounds like a trite response to the fact that they report things in a way that you disagree with. Since “the media” is made up of both black and white people, who would this race war benefit?

  2. lwk2431 says:

    “If we returned to the days when a person had an obligation to retreat when possible, we wouldn’t be relying on juries…”
    So you didn’t read my article on stand your ground defense, did you? I mean I understand, we are all busy and have lots to do.
    But the fact is that the “retreat if possible” standard had as many, or more problems. For one, a person in a deadly encounter with adrenaline rushing through their veins, and all the crazy things that does to your perception, may not see the apparently easy route of retreat. It is grossly unfair to put a person in jail who defended against deadly force with deadly force because they were not totally calm, and objective, and could actually see that route of retreat at the moment.
    It is pretty easy for some slick District Attorney to paint a picture of a person who just wanted to kill someone and point out how “easy” it would have been to done X, or whatever. But he wasnt’ there, maybe he has never actually faced deadly violence in his or her life. That DA may not have clue what the real situation was like.
    Also you should read the book “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman who studied killing in war (and lot of what he found is very applicable outside of war). When one side turns and runs away that can have the psychological effect of enabling the attacker to kill. So actually running away can get you killed in some circumstances where just standing there and facing the attacker may not.
    In either case, stand your ground, or retreat, a jury still has to interpret what happened based on some mythical reasonable person standard. Stand your ground puts the emphasis where it should be. The responsibility for death or great physical injury in such a situation should _always_ be placed on the aggressor, not the defender. Requiring retreat is an unreasonable standard in many situations that very often punishes perfectly moral and legitimate self defense.
    What is the point of retreat, to save the life of a morally deficient person who believes they can get away with using force against others? I am more interested in saving the lives of people who would otherwise be the victims of violence, and just like we do with police, we need to give such people the benefit of the doubt until there is clear evidence otherwise, for example, that they themselves provoked the attack, or were a party to instigating it, or used clearly excessive force (judged by the same standards a police officer is judged).

    • Once again, thanks for writing, but you obviously are someone who believes that Travon Martin was “morally deficient” having never met him. That, after all appears to be your defense of George Zimmerman. That’s your choice. It is also your choice to put ideology above human life. I disagree. All the best to you, but I have little respect for people who believe what you apparently do, and respectfully suggest that there may be some moral deficiencies in those who believe as you do. I will not be replying to any more of your messages since I believe that my ability to remain polite may suffer.

      • lwk2431 says:

        “…you obviously are someone who believes that Travon Martin was “morally deficient” having never met him.”

        I have an article on my blog that has links to articles by Massad Ayoob, a well earned authority for me who was an expert witness at the trial for the defense.

        Inside the Zimmerman Trial

        The evidence is that Martin was into drugs and violence. There is plenty of evidence as to Martin’s moral character, and that he initiated the violence in this case.

        “It is also your choice to put ideology above human life.”

        I put the lives of the innocent and those who do not _initiate_ the use of force above the lives of those who initiate the use of force against others. Those who criminally initiate the use of deadly force against others in society forfeit any claim to a right to life.

        “I will not be replying to any more of your messages since I believe that my ability to remain polite may suffer.”

        That’s ok – maybe it also reflects on your ability to look objectively at evidence.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow Gerald (Jerry) Zezas on
%d bloggers like this: