Demonstrators in Florida and Michigan have used the same language to describe the shootings of two young African Americans. The Los Angeles Times says the killings of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Renisha McBride this month raise different legal questions along the touchy intersection of race and guns. Martin, 17, and McBride, 19, were unarmed. The people who killed them–George Zimmerman, who shot Martin, and Theodore Wafer, a white man arraigned Friday in the death of McBride–say the shootings were justified.
For civil rights activists, the two slayings are symptoms of the same condition: A society that undervalues the life of people of color and a legal system that makes it hard to prosecute those who kill. In terms of the law and circumstances, the cases in Florida and Michigan are different, although they have generated similar passions. Florida has a stand your ground law, which allows someone who feels threatened to use legal force, rather than flee. Michigan does not have a stand your ground law, although state law does recognize the concept of self-defense. Wafer is charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter in the death of McBride and a weapons charge.