The Trayvon Martin case has once again highlighted two issues that have defied solutions in the United States. There is no doubt that race is still a boiling pot and that the justice system has not yet been able to shake off the vestiges of the Wild West era when matters were settled in the streets and courts were there simply to endorse the action.
In the 21st Century United States, race is increasingly transcending the historic prejudices against African Americans to include all people of color. For someone of color, life in the US is not the same as it is for a person who is White. I am an Indian but I have been mistaken for a Latino and an Asian, not that I mind the universal identity but it is unpleasant when there is fear attached to it.
I have been warned by circumstances and by well-meaning friends never to trespass on private property, whatever the emergency, because a white man with a gun could justifiably shoot and kill you even before talking with you. Consequently, when driving around the country I pray I do not face an emergency that would force me to seek help from a white home-owner. When looking for an address in a residential area I have had to drive miles out of the way to a gas station for instructions. I am never sure of the response from a white person to an inquiry or simply to a greeting. Of course, that sometimes is the case with African Americans too.
There is no doubt that a large part of the fear that non-white people have to live with is because of the private ownership of guns and the right that people have to protect themselves. During the 80 years of my life I have lived in South Africa, India, England, and now in the United States, but in no other country did I have to live with the fear of losing my life for something as silly as walking in a neighborhood. I lived through riots in South Africa and in India but we did not have to live in fear because it was understood that the police and the army are meant to protect the nation and the people. It seems ironic to me that the citizens of the most advanced and the most civilized nation in the world lives with greater fear than people in any other country.
This dilemma that the United States faces today is because of the over-dependence on the law to set things right. There are issues in the lives of people that cannot be corrected by law. They can only be corrected by love and respect. The law can only enable integration but cannot bring about understanding. This is why the racial pot keeps boiling because no one is making an attempt to bring about respect and understanding between races and cultures. Aggression only aggravates the problem.