With the media focus on Ferguson, this week i have been sent a request to blog on the riots as a result to the news that the officer who shot Michael Brown would not be charged for his murder. In order to understand the persistent frenzy, we need to establish exactly why this is an issue in America and what it shows about their justice system…
In August of this year, a black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot 12 times by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Eye witnesses claimed the teenager was unarmed and pleaded for the officer not to shoot with his arms raised, which has become the symbol for this particular protest. However, despite his plea, officer Darren Wilson, who claimed he shot the teenager in self-defence, proceeded in protecting himself, thus shooting the young teenager. The reason for the uproar in Ferguson and across many American states is that an unarmed black teenager was shot dead, costing him his life.
Known for its issues regarding justice and race, black Americans, amid the shooting of Michael Brown, feel there is little to no justice for them. This comes as it was announced yesterday that Darren Wilson, the officer responsible for Brown’s death will not be charged. As expected, thousands of protesters walked the streets of Ferguson, protesting their disappointment and calls for justice.
Has the grand jury’s decision sparked a whole new era of race riots? Possibly, however there is some debate concerning the nature of these protests and doubt as to whether this would achieve the justice the people of Ferguson and Michael Brown’s family would desire.
Many protesters have also criticised Obama’s intervention in the Ferguson/Brown case, implying that he has failed to support the fight as he had never had to struggle with law and race relations with law enforcers. Are these protesters right? Should Obama be doing more to support his fellow African American citizens? Or is this something which surpasses race altogether?
From class wars to institutional racism, these have been issues civil rights activists campaigned on for many years on the mission to gain equality. It seems though King’s ‘dream’ is still to be achieved. The issue here lies in the system – the justice system to be exact and the way in which African Americans are still discriminated against. For example (although slightly different), the case of Oscar Pistorius who shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp four times and thought her to be a burglar is facing a five year prison term, whereas officer Wilson, who should have been able to see whether Brown was armed or not has in some respect got away scot free. Who then pays for the life of this young boy? Despite some supporters for officer Wilson, a life has been taken, yet there is a lack of pressure in the side of authority to ensure justice is served.
Could this also amount to African American involvement in politics? Here in the UK, young people are involved in a variety of opportunities which enable them to scrutinise key leaders and express their opinions. Of course the current riots portray the strong felt opinions of the black community, the image of violence certainly doesn’t help their case.
So how do we solve this? There is no doubt that the justice system needs serious reform as well as the police treatment towards the black community, particularly in the most urban areas within America. What would help is the solidarity of African Americans and being tactful in the way they try to achieve justice and racial equality.