Riots in Ferguson have once again captured the world’s attention. Many people sense that other cities and towns suffer the same dysfunction, as the United States is highly stratified by both race and income.
Violence flared again in Ferguson, Missouri on Monday, November 24, after a grand jury decided not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson over the fatal shooting of black youth Michael Brown in August! Cars, buildings and shops were set alight while police used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. Gunshots were also heard in suburban St. Louis, with police using tear gas, pepper spray and bean bags.
Despite a heavy police presence, tens of thousands of protesters also took to the streets in other cities like New York, Oakland, Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago and Detroit in response to the controversial verdict.
The protests were so huge that “President of Change” Barack Obama appeared on TV to acknowledge the US is suffering from racial discrimination. As he acknowledged, there are still serious problems related to racial discrimination because “communities of color aren't just making these problems up.”
In other words, America’s justice system was discriminatory in practice, if not intent, long before the Ferguson police force’s heavy-handed response to the protests and the subsequent verdict.
If you know anything about racial disparities in the U.S. justice system, then it shouldn’t shock you to learn that police deployments with military weapons are only used disproportionately in black and Latino neighborhoods. The fact that police use these weapons and vehicles to kill - and get away with it – isn’t a surprise at all.
What’s surprising is that the verdict on the murder of an unarmed black youth, who was shot 12 times while he was on his knees with his hands up in the air, is simply exposing everything that is wrong with the US justice system.
This while Amnesty International says Brown was wrongfully murdered and the police violated the rights of protesters. Among the offenses police committed, according to Amnesty International, are using tear gas and curfews to quell protests, arresting journalists, and using unnecessary force to disperse the crowd.
As it stands, the unrest is taking place in a country that is not working. Many Americans, especially whites, comfort themselves that the US has become a post-racial society. Not the blacks and the Latinos. Some 80% of blacks surveyed nationwide by the Pew Research Center say “the shooting raises important issues about race, and the police reaction to the protests has gone too far.”
According to the nonpartisan fact tank, they also want the same thing that the whites do: A safe place to live, work and play. But that kind of equality and change needs to come from the top, and the justice system in Ferguson proved yet again that change is not coming.
Likewise, it proved hard choices will have to be made, as neither shouting for the cameras nor participating in candlelight vigils accomplishes much. It’s a wake-up call for black Americans though: If you want to change, then change. Otherwise, save the candles.