Fresh off leading the GOP to force a government shutdown, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made headlines again when he explained to Sybrina Fulton, mother of slain teen Trayvon Martin, at a Senate hearing yesterday that the “Stand Your Ground” laws are not racist and, in fact, are beneficial to African-Americans.
But Fulton fired back in an appearance on Rev. Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show, “PoliticsNation,” saying that there was “some disconnect” in Sen. Cruz’s remarks and he is “not aware of the real law and how it affects us as a community.”
This perception is borne out of a Quinnipiac poll released over the summer, showing that a majority of Blacks oppose the self-defense law, while a majority of whites support it. The Quinnipiac University poll revealed that white voters support “Stand Your Ground” laws by a margin of 57 percent to 37 percent, while Black voters oppose them by the same margin. As for political divisions, Republicans support the laws 75 percent to 19 percent, while Democrats oppose them 62 percent to 32 percent.
Overall, the nation backed the laws by a margin of 53 percent to 40 percent. More than 30 states have such laws on the books.
The poll mirrored previous polls showing a majority of whites supporting George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the murder of Trayvon Martin, while a majority of Blacks opposed it.
On his show, Sharpton offered numbers from the Tampa Bay Times to rebut Cruz’s claim that “Stand Your Ground” is helpful to Blacks. Sharpton put up a graph showing that when the victim is Black or Hispanic, the killer walks free 78 percent of the time, but when the victim is white, the killer walks free only 56 percent of the time.
“‘Stand Your Ground’ is good law for minorities? He’s wrong,” Sharpton said. “The numbers tell the story.”
Cruz first offered his condolences for Fulton’s loss. But after defending the trial by jury process that found Zimmerman not guilty of murder, Cruz said, “the subject of this hearing, the “Stand Your Ground” laws, was not a defense that Mr. Zimmerman raised. So this entire hearing—the topic of this hearing—is not the issue on which that trial turned.”
Although the Zimmerman defense team didn’t explicitly use a “Stand Your Ground” hearing, it was discussed obsessively in the months leading up to the trial, it was included in the jury instructions and was something Zimmerman was well-versed on when he pursued Trayvon.
“We know that some in our political process have a desire to exploit that tragic, violent incident for agendas that have nothing to do with that young man who lost his life,” Cruz continued. “We have seen efforts to undermine the verdict of the jury and, more broadly, to inflame racial tensions that I think are sad and irresponsible.”
“No one could reasonably believe that Stand Your Ground laws protect those in the African-American communities who are victims of violent crimes,” Cruz said. “A great many African-Americans find themselves victims of violent crime and have asserted this defense to defend themselves, defend their families, defend their children.”
Cruz even tried to pull President Obama into his argument, pointing out that “in 2004 a state senator in Illinois by the name of Barack Obama co-sponsored an expansion of Illinois’ law providing civil immunity for those who use justifiable force to defend themselves” as evidence that similar laws could not possibly be racially biased.
“The notion that ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws are some form of veiled racism may be a convenient political attack,” he said, “but it is not borne out by the facts remotely.”
On Sharpton’s show, Fulton said she was taken aback when Cruz said “Stand Your Ground” wasn’t part of the trial since she had been hearing everyone talk about it for more than a year.
“It wasn’t something that we made up,” she said.