The fact that the George Zimmerman verdict is still drawing huge controversy is telling of the deeply-rooted pathologies that still plague American society and its legal system. George Zimmerman's acquittal has sparked riots across America, dividing the country mainly along racial lines.
Therefore, now more than ever is the time to address black America's long-standing grievances. Was this a racially-motivated crime? Was Zimmerman, at the very least, afraid of a black teenager in a hoodie prowling his neighbourhood at night? Was Zimmerman's anxiety based on certain stereotypes of black teenage boys? Did he therefore racially profile Martin, even though he is not characteristically racist? People who say this was a racist murder have no way of confirming it for certain. Nonetheless, was race still a factor in how Zimmerman acted?
A nuanced discourse is obviously needed here. This is not just about phobias, racism or hatred. It is also about festering tensions between members of various ethnic communities. Their perceptions of each other can often give rise to resentments and negative opinions that could very well lead to senseless violence.
I encountered such racial stereotypes in my discussions on twitter shortly after the verdict. For example, the phrase "hooded black men" came up a number of times.
One twitter user commented that crimes were often committed by hooded black teenagers. Could Zimmerman have also been governed by such notions? He may have had no history of hatred for black men, but was he fearful that night that this hooded black teenager was going to kill him because of the stereotypes that exist about black teenagers? Race therefore cannot be ruled out as a factor. While one is not implying that the murder was a racist act, one can also not entirely dismiss the racial stereotypes and perceptions of black people that exist among non-blacks.
The black community is justifiably outraged that a black teenager is dead and no one has paid the price for it.
Those who endorse self-defense as a legitimate basis for Zimmerman's acquittal must consider the following: This is tantamount to believing that Trayvon Martin is somehow responsible for his own death.
It is a shameful and odious view that sets a dangerous precedent -- One that sends the message that neighbourhood watchers can kill with impunity and claim self-defense as a sure ticket to their acquittal.
Existing laws ought to be challenged. The jury may have reached the "correct" verdict based on current laws, but injustices can occur if the laws are flawed to begin with. In this regard, the "stand your ground" law must be scrutinized and scrapped.
According to this law, an individual can use deadly force on his assailant even if he/she has the option of leaving the scene. But isn't that giving the individual too much power? The kind of power Zimmerman had over the unarmed Trayvon Martin?
And, last but not least, Trayvon Martin is not alive to tell his side of the story. Who aggravated whom? How did things escalate to the point where someone had to pull the trigger?
The verdict has left some of us with a nagging sense of unease that something was simply not right with the outcome of the trial.
Follow Farzana Hassan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@FarzanaHassan1