America has always struggled with its atrocious race record. You could be forgiven for thinking that the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Junior had signalled the end of segregation and racial injustice in what is supposed to be one of the world’s leaders in freedom. This is not the case. Ferguson shows that the horrible disease which has afflicted the USA for all of its history continues to thrive to this day.
The violence that we have seen pour out in Missouri following the unjust murder of eighteen year old Michael Brown is the result of a long process. Discontent and strife have been brewing in the pressure cooker of the American south for decades, and while the media have focused on the injustice that sparked this debacle, the long term issues have been largely ignored.
African Americans have a higher rate of incarceration in the United States than any other ethnicity. In recent years we have seen many trigger happy police officers wrongly shoot at African Americans. Florida’s “stand your ground” law enabled George Zimmerman to chase down and murder Travyon Martin and escape without charge. This hostile climate was an explosive time bomb, and it is not surprising that an increasingly common occurrence caused the bomb to detonate.
…Discontent and strife have been brewing in the pressure cooker of the American south for decades…
We have all watched in shock as a militarised police seemed to use force, fear and coercion against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters. The scenes we have seen do not look like they occurred in 2014. Rubber bullets and tear gas have both been deployed, creating scenes reminiscent of 1963.The American constitution enables peaceful protest, it is an inalienable right, yet these protestors are being treated as criminals.
The double election of President Barack Obama has led many to question the state of racial affairs in the USA. His election is certainly an achievement, but the lives of millions are still dictated by race. In his autobiography the President talks about how he has been followed around stores and pulled over due to his race, but it is unlikely that his children will be mistakenly shot due to little more than their ethnic background. Until America can remedy this devastating disease that continues to plague the nation domestically it is hard to call it a leading democratic power.
…Rubber bullets and tear has have both been deployed…
America has come far since the sixties, but it still has a long way to go. Until the institutional racism that enables police officers to feel safe enough to shoot unarmed suspects is eradicated America will continue to feel the aftershocks of its insidious racial past.
Protest is good. It leads (on the most part) to positive change. Peacefully protesting has been proven to work, it is the weapon of the strong. Undeniably there have been violent streaks by isolated protestors in Missouri, but the police response has been disproportionate; America is made strong by the ability of its citizens to protest against their grievances, and this democratic right must be protected if it is to become the world power that it sees itself as.