Women. Power. Peace.

Let’s defeat Stand Your Ground in the South!

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The following is a transcript of Georgia WAND Executive Director Becky Rafter's comments during a rally against Stand Your Ground at the Georgia State Capitol Monday, February 3, 2014

No citizen should be profiled and shot while their perpetrator is allowed to go unpunished due to such a law with unclear applications and loopholes. Therefore, we call upon you to repeal Georgia's "stand your ground" law.

Georgia WAND joins community organizations calling for a repeal of Stand Your Ground. Why is this important in the South?

Let’s start with the law.

According to some experts, Stand Your Ground laws don't even work: their studies show that Stand Your Ground laws have led to an increase of 600 homicides over a five year period and have increased crime rates across a 21-state sample.

Self-defense claims have tripled in Florida due to Stand Your Ground. But somehow, in SYG states, like FL and GA, white on black killings are 354% more likely to be considered justified, compared to black-on-white killings.

354% more justified.

Let’s talk about race.

Violence is a means of social control; and similar to how Stop and Frisk, 287(g) and other state-sponsored programs target black and brown men, Stand Your Ground laws are trickled down state-sanctioned violence. Stand Your Ground is codified vigilantism. At least half of all the states that have Stand Your Ground laws are in the South. And only one or two states in the South don't have Stand Your Ground laws (NC and VA); ALL of the deep south states have Stand Your Ground.

So let’s talk about the south.

What else does the South have? The south also has the lowest high school graduation rates, the highest rates of poverty, the dirtiest energy, and its political representation is misaligned in many counties, such that the best interests of the majority is not reflected in public policies. Given that information, communities of color, women, immigrants and the elderly in the South have a weaker political voice than in other regions. The South is home for the majority of the US's Black communities. So how is it that roughly about 10% of all congressional members from the south are Black? And no governors are Black? to say nothing of a dearth of female representation.

Women! Yes, let’s talk about women. Mothers.

Obama said in his State of the Union address “Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds”

So how are we doing?

Single women have the highest poverty rates but 40% of births – so a huge driver of income chasm in US is single mothers.

And 80% of black children are born to single women.

26% of the nation’s mothers are single women!

Of all women who are unemployed, two-thirds are unmarried. Of all women who have no health insurance, two-thirds are unmarried. And of all women below the federal poverty line, 81 percent are unmarried, according to recent data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Women also like to talk about safety – safety for our families and communities, our kids in schools, our sons on the street, our homes, our health, our food. But when safety is sold to us as arming the neighborhood watch, as fighting terrorists overseas, as militarizing the border, our public money is sapped away for drone research, nuclear weapons refurbishment, covert military operations. We’re squandering democracy at home to pay for fighting for it abroad. We’re eviscerating democracy in our communities by supporting codified vigilantism.

Women want safety AND democracy. But women must rise up and demand it.

 Of Registered Voters in GA; women  make up the largest voting block (52% of votes cast); if women got together we could control every election in GA.

Who votes at the highest rates in GA? Black women! Second highest is white women.

So how can we build together, as women, across race and class, including immigrant women, young women, transgender women, transgender men, male allies; lesbian and bisexual women, disabled women, in getting more politically involved? How do we build more power in order to fight for the safety of our communities?

Well, let’s talk about power!

The people behind the Stand Your Ground law are form the group ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a right-wing extremist think tank; and in addition to policies like Stand Your Ground, ALEC is responsible for drafting tons of other legislative models that are being rolled out all across the south and beyond. Simultaneous to the Stand Your Ground legislation, ALEC is supporting policies that protect the country's worst industrial polluters and energy giants. They were also key in supporting and planning the Citizens United hustle and subsequent Supreme Court decision. ALEC members support the privatization of elections, schools, social security, prisons, public goods and so much more. Corporatization and personhood are ALEC's modus operandi; so it is no surprise that they've also crafted anti-immigrant legislation. In fact, Georgia plays right along with ALEC. Our largest privately-owned immigrant detention center has the highest average daily population in the country. This is not a coincidence

As you can see, Stand Your Ground is part of a larger strategic package of public policies that aim at controlling the common man for the benefit of capital interests. Therefore we must demand not only a repeal of Stand Your Ground but also we must push against ALEC and the extremists who horde power and feed off of everyday people's fears, explicit and inherent racist tendancies, and greed. This is especially apparent in the South.

So what does it mean that ALEC is using the South as its laboratory? And that the South is the only region in the country where the political will and mis-representation of power that allows for ALEC's agenda to be successful? ALEC would be nothing without the South. But the peoples whose interests are ultimately being fed by ALEC's legislative successes are not even in the South -- they are shareholders of powerful corporations, elite legislators and religious leaders, most of whom are not in the South.

Locating Stand Your Ground laws as part of a larger effort to maintain power at the top echelon of society is important because these laws maintain the status quo and keep power out of the hands of everyday people - especially people with lower incomes, women, rural voters, people of color, and undocumented immigrants.

What killed Trayvon Martin in Florida this summer, and what continues plaguing black and brown people in America, is deep-seated racism and state-reinforced xenophobia. Our country needs a culture shift; and for this reason, Georgia WAND is proud to stand in solidarity as a member of a broad coalition to repeal Georgia's Stand Your Ground law.

We are in a state of transformation that is decades and centuries old, even. We are moving a struggle forward that is bigger than us and will grow even stronger than we are.

We are building a culture of support from the bottom up, from without to the outside, from those who struggle at the center.

Let us not invest our community energy and resources in policies of violence and hatred. Let’s show that we we value a culture of safety, equality, justice and security (income security, food security, health security, equality) over a culture of violence.

There is a correlation between building women’s political power and increased investment in health, education; building sustainable societies.

Power concedes nothing without demand.  Let us rise together as women and our allies! Let us defeat Stand Your Ground, ALEC, and other forces that try to suppress democracy, liberation, equality and justice.

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