"O, wad some Power the giftie gie us /The US is always collectively amazed, on those rare occasions when it has cause to glimpse at how it is perceived by its less friendly critics abroad. The most egregious example, of course, was 9/11, when even the brutal enormity of the attack against America was not quite enough to still the hateful tongues of people crass enough to insist that the US had got what was coming to it. The citizens of the US have an absolute right to go about their business without being slaughtered. Of course they do. Which is why the world is aghast that this right does not extend as far as Trayvon Martin.
To see oursels as others see us! /
It wad frae monie a blunder free us, /
An' foolish notion."
- Robert Burns
When the unarmed 17-year-old was shot dead by neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman on 26 February 2012, the killer wasn't even arrested for 44 days, having said that he fired in self-defence. Self-defence? He'd already called the police, telling the operator that Martin was acting suspiciously - "up to no good, on drugs or something". Zimmerman had been told by the operator not to follow the teenager. But nevertheless he found himself and his gun right next to Martin, provoking a struggle. What kind of self-defence is this, when you decide that someone is trouble, and that you're going to stalk him, safe in the knowledge that if things get out of hand ... well, you're armed? Yet a jury decided that going out armed, looking for a particular person to defend yourself against, is still self-defence, and on 13 July Zimmerman was acquitted of murder.
Only protest from the public ensured that Zimmerman was tried for killing Martin at all. Only protest from the public has ensured that this killing has been seen through the prism of race. Yet to an outsider, it is obvious that Martin died because he was black, and that Zimmerman walked free after killing him for the same reason.