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Senator Stephanie Flowers Won’t Be Silenced

"What are you gonna do, shoot me?"

An Arkansas Senate committee met this week to vote on a so-called “stand your ground” law. The bill would have expanded a person’s right to use deadly force in self-defense, eliminating their “duty to retreat” when feeling threatened. Arkansas is a bit of an oasis in the south, as all of the states bordering it have “stand your ground” laws. Republicans and gun groups in Arkansas have been trying to pass similar legislation for at least a decade, but haven’t been able to get it through.

This measure similarly failed in the GOP-controlled Senate Committee, undoubtedly in no small part due to the words of Democratic State Senator Stephanie Flowers.

A video from NowThis has gone viral, showing Flowers unapologetically expressing her rage at her colleagues’ disregard for the cruel and unnecessary deaths of black boys and men. Committee Chairman Alan Clark, sitting next to her, at one point tells her she needs to stop. “No I don’t,” she replies. “What are you gonna do, shoot me?”

The clips above are powerful, but if you can, I highly recommend watching the full video below.

“I’ll be as quick as I can,” she starts off. “As quick as it takes to kill somebody, I guess.”

Sen. Flowers is the only person of color on this committee, and it’s no wonder she shows so much anger in having to explain to her colleagues how different their worlds are. In her district, she says, “We have killings regularly down there.” She says she fears for the life of her son and other black children.

“You don’t have to worry about your children, Will,” she tells someone off-camera, presumably her fellow Democrat Will Bond, “but I worry about my son. And I worry about other little black boys and girls, and people coming into my neighborhood, into my city, saying they’ve got open carry rights, walking down in front of my doggone office in front of the courthouse. That’s a bully!”

“Do I have a right to stand my ground with some crazy-ass person walking around with a doggone gun?” she asks. “I don’t know what the hell he intends to do but I know I am scared. I feel threatened.”

Stand your ground laws got national attention in 2012 with the murder of Trayvon Martin, for which George Zimmerman was acquitted. These laws have been in use since the 1980s, sometimes nicknamed “make my day” laws because, in the NRA fantasy, we can all be Dirty Harry. There’s evidence, though, suggesting that stand your ground laws significantly increase homicide rates and do nothing to lower other crime rates.

It’s also not a surprise that these laws are prosecuted differently based on the race of the victim and the person standing their ground. A study analyzing FBI data found that when a black person is shot by a white person in a stand your ground state, that shooting is found justifiable 17% of the time, while a jury will find the shooting of a white person by a black person to be justifiable barely 1% of the time.

Flowers was angry at the attempt to rush this bill through committee. “This deserves more attention,” she yells at her colleagues. “I’m talking about my son’s life and the lives of other black kids. Do what the hell you want to do, go ahead! But you can’t silence me.”

(image: screencap)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.