The Martin verdict may well be legally justifiable but I have less enthusiasm for the overall message, which boils down to make sure you kill the other guy first. Unless you are black. The upshot of this message for a young black man being harassed in his own neighborhood by an aggressive jerk, a scenario that HAPPENS ABOUT ONCE EVERY FIVE SECONDS, sounds pretty lose-lose. Here is one thought that will not whisk away the many layers of fear and resentment that makes race relations such a profound problem in this country, but it might help.
A while back, when my wife got her first smartphone, I mused* about how nice it would be to have a simple button or button combination that would start recording video while sending it to a pre-set friend or relative. It seems hard to think of any other personal safety device that is at the same time so cheap, effective and compatible with technology that everyone already carries around. If someone bothers you for whatever reason you can take out the phone as if to give it to them, push the button and invite them to proceed with the more or less total certainty of going to jail. This probably would not stop the truly crazy or someone wearing a mask, but it would have more uses than mace or a gun.
As far as I know the idea has not been implemented yet. Nonetheless, in situations that are more uncomortable than dangerous, for example men acting like a douche to women, the more awkward strategy of login-open camera app-snap-upload later works pretty well. How do I know that it works? One, anecdotal evidence. I have heard about plenty of encounters trending from bad to worse, but which turned around as soon as the dude found out that he might end up in a shaming post on some blog, tumblr or Facebook (with its quite good face-recognition software). Second, the men’s rights crowd are up in arms over it.
The ounter-feminists coined a clever protest term: ‘creep shaming’, cf. slut shaming. This illustrates once again what Atrios describes as the conservatives problem with consent. Whatever a ‘slut’ does is consensual. When non-consensual we call it ‘sexual asssault’ or ‘rape’. Creepy behavior is not consensual. Compare and contrast.
Like I said, a small thing like this will not heal the racial divide in America. Still, when harassed by a jerk it could really help to activate a record-and-send feature on the phone and ask the other guy whether he really wants to become a celebrity on YouTube. Whereas the legal system has a pretty high bar for proving that someone acted like a racially motivated jerk, most people understand that the internet jumps to conclusions like Nancy Grace on meth. In my view this kind of feature would pay for itself in the same way that a seatbelt will not save you in a sharknado but it helps in the kind of accident that most people encounter most of the time. Apple, Google, how about it?
(*) No link because even us unemployed do not have the time to deal with our C- search functionality.