Racism, unfortunately, is still far too large a part of our nation’s culture, and while it does not rise to the level of ethnic, sectarian and nationalistic bias afflicting so many parts of the world, it remains an embarrassment in a nation that has worked so hard and so long to overcome such destructive belief systems.
The fatal shooting of an unarmed black youth by a police officer — who witnesses said was white — in suburban St. Louis is just the latest reason so many American blacks (and Latinos, for that matter) find it difficult to respect authority when that authority is exercised by whites.
That, of course, does not excuse the violent demonstrations — and the looting — that have plagued the community of Ferguson, Missouri, since the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Yes, the community’s outrage is understandable, but to respond with violence is only to hand fuel to those who are still predisposed to regard minorities as inherently inferior and unworthy of the respect accorded others.
It is good that Eric Holder, the attorney general of the United States, has decided the Missouri shooting merits a federal-level investigation. At this point, the facts of the incident remain wide open to often-incorrect interpretation, and presumably the probe will bring clarification and a convincing conclusion.
Ferguson’s population is overwhelmingly black, but its police force has only three black officers, and so far the identity of the shooter has not been disclosed.
What’s more discouraging, though, is that many Americans — without knowing all the facts — are apparently comfortable viewing the shooting and the ensuing protests in the mostly black community of Ferguson as evidence of deliberate black rejection of authority (or the majority’s code of behavior) than a blatant case of racial prejudice on the part of the police.
Therefore, it is encouraging that a reasonable voice has been raised among our nation’s more conservative thinkers.
“There are sensible conservative responses to the ongoing violence in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown,” Charles Cooke wrote this week in the National Review.
Unfortunately, he acknowledged, many of his fellow conservatives have chosen another route.
Rather than cautioning against a rush to judgment, denouncing the rioting as counterproductive or offering evidence that white-on-black violence is not prevalent, Cooke wrote, many appear eager to suggest that the bigger problem is black-on-black violence.
“It is indisputably true that the United States has a problem with blacks killing blacks,” Cooke conceded. “And yet this has absolutely nothing to do with the question at hand, which is: ‘Did a police officer unjustifiably kill an unarmed black man in Missouri?’”
The incident in the St. Louis suburb “opened old and real wounds” that conservatives should acknowledge, he argued.
Furthermore, he reminded his readers that police shootings carry “the imprimatur of the state,” and that makes them more alarming than civilian-on-civilian violence.
“Even if the United States did not boast a history in which blacks were routinely disfavored, beaten, and even murdered by the governments that were ostensibly established to protect them, there would still be something distinct about being killed or hurt by a man in uniform,” Cooke noted, correctly.
Using social media, many Americans have circulated photographs portraying the shooting victim in an unfavorable manner. In fact, in those depictions he was actually recording a rap song in a studio and was dressed for the occasion.
That doesn’t prove he was the thug so many seem to believe he was. Nor does it justify a death sentence.
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