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Almost fifty years since Lyndon B. Johnson ratified the Civil Rights Act American politics is still plagued by racial tensions and accusations of xenophobia. On my last visit to the US, news coverage obsessed tirelessly as last February a seventeen year old black male, Trayvon Martin, was shot dead by a neighbourhood watch ‘vigilante’ after an exasperated confrontation between himself and Zimmerman spun out of control. The unarmed Trayvon Martin was carrying a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles.
Upon my return to the US this year the media is still plagued by the regrettable loss. The defendant George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second degree murder after a controversial and emotionally charged court battle, upon the release of the verdict thousands of Americans rallied in over one hundred cities to address their grievance at the verdict. After several break-ins throughout the community Zimmerman called the non- emergency line and reported that he saw a suspicious figure that he thought to be “on drugs or something”. Rather than adhere to the instructions of the authorities who told Zimmerman not to pursue, he confronted the young man which eventually led to the death of an unarmed teenager.
Barack Obama offered sentiments lamenting the death of Trayvon asserting that: “The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws – everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws.”
Misleading comments that the death was racially motivated have been corrected by the media and have disproved the theory that the incident occurred out of ‘racial profiling’ on Zimmerman’s behalf. NBC apologized for editing the phone call made by Zimmerman to sound like he had only described Trayvon’s race, when actually he had only given his race when prompted. Still, the phrase ‘racial profiling’ is thrown around accusingly. Race is not the issue here; America’s laissez-faire policy towards guns is. If firearms were eradicated from US society there would be no debate and Trayvon Martin would be alive today.
The experienced debater will throw up the ‘Second Amendment’ debacle and remind us that the American citizens were set free by an armed militia who rose up against a tyrannical oppressor; as the British furrow their brow guiltily. The Brady Campaign to Stop Violence claims that over one hundred- thousand people are shot each year in America. Which means that on average, over two hundred and eighty nine people are shot each day: eighty-six of them die, thirty are murdered, fifty-three kill themselves and two are shot accidentally. Today, ‘wars’ amongst the governed and the government should not be fought by armed militias but in courts of law. A civilized society does not use the sword or the bullet, it uses the pen by exercising one’s freedom of speech to redress a nation’s grievances.