The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown has exposed the racial segregation that still exists in the U.S. The American city of Ferguson looks like a war zone. In pictures — which are spreading all over the world — we see heavily armed police with protective vests and masks and automatic weapons. Both tear gas and rubber bullets have been used against demonstrators, and there is a curfew at night.
Ever since the police shot the 18-year-old to death, there has been unrest in the city. According to one of the autopsy doctors the teenager was shot six times, twice in the head. Several witnesses claim that they saw Brown hold his hands up when the police confronted him.
The investigation around the event is still going on, but many are already drawing the conclusion that it was a case of racial discrimination; that Michael Brown was shot because he was an African-American. And there is good reason for this analysis; between the years 2006 and 2012, American police have killed two black citizens per week.
The shots against the 18-year-old can also be linked to a series of other factors. St. Louis, which is near Ferguson, has been and still is one of the United States’ most segregated cities. Up until the year 1949, blacks weren't allowed access to the city's public pools and arenas on the same terms that whites were. In the 1960s, it was made illegal to segregate people based on skin color for the first time. Universal suffrage also first came into effect then. In other words, it hasn't been especially long since racial segregation in the country was politically sanctioned.
U.S. Has a Long Way to Go
American society still has a long way to go in terms of eliminating discrimination. Even today, blacks are depicted as dangerous and criminal, who therefore have to be controlled with heavily armed police. How are we supposed to otherwise understand the task force artillery that was used in Ferguson, or the “stop and frisk” method in New York, where people who look suspicious are stopped and searched? In 2012, more than half a million people were stopped on the streets of New York, and almost 90 percent of them were black or Latin American.
Harder Measures Are Not the Right Way
An American war veteran said on Twitter that the police in Ferguson carry heavier weapons than his forces did during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. That says a good deal.
The events in Ferguson are a concern for us in Sweden, too; here, the increased inequality and segregation — not least of which occurs in our big cities' suburbs — has led to increased discontent and social unrest. Even if Swedish society isn't like America, the events in Ferguson should serve as a deterrent example. Harder measures and more police is the wrong way to go.