At the heart of the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman is the question of how much weight to give to Zimmerman’s fears. Florida’s “stand your ground” law allows the use of deadly force if someone believes his or her life is threatened. So Zimmerman’s feelings are his defense.
His fear of a young black man, however, does not exist in a vacuum. We have long privileged — and created — fears of black men, from the myth of the black rapist to the relegation of our military’s blacks to menial work. We have created excuses for racial violence in the name of safeguarding whites.